Joe Schmidt Turns Ireland into Formidable Machine
During this year’s Ireland Grand Slam tournament, Joe Schmidt has been the master of almost everything he has surveyed. At times during his five-year tenure as Ireland head coach, the New Zealander has been criticised for being too strict and structured. His attention to detail would be considered excessive by certain nuclear physicists. Ireland players openly admit they dread his Monday morning review sessions.
Call that dictatorial or just decisive, it means Schmidt’s squad perform with absolute clarity in their roles and conviction in their collective purpose. And that in turn has yielded results: a first grand slam at Twickenham, a third championship title in five years to follow on from four titles in as many years as Leinster coach. There can be no debate that the 52-year-old should be considered as the greatest coach in Irish history.
“He keeps you on your toes,” Jonathan Sexton, the fly-half who was celebrating his first triple crown, said. “He, eh, how do I put this nicely? At times during the week you are driven demented with him, but you know he is doing it for a reason – putting pressure on you in training, at meetings to make sure on Saturday every box is ticked, to make sure all the prep is done. He is an incredible coach, his record with Irish teams speaks for itself.”
Ireland have now strung together 12 consecutive victories and attention is already turning to the visit of New Zealand to the Aviva Stadium in November. “We’re sitting No 2 in the world, and we’re excited to have a crack at New Zealand,” Jacob Stockdale, the wing who scored a record seven tries in a single Six Nations tournament, said. “Look, Joe hasn’t said ‘New Zealand is the target’, but your ambition is to be the best team in the world and to do that you have to beat the best team in the world. At the minute that’s New Zealand.”
Ireland won the 2018 Six Nations Championship on 10 March, rising to second place in the world rankings and beat England a week later in Twickenham to complete their third Grand Slam.
Original article by Daniel Schofield, The Telegraph, March 19, 2018.