Sunday 21 December 2014

BOD's fame almost scared Schmidt off Leinster top job

Published 07/05/2014 | 02:30

Robbie Henshaw , Connacht Rugby and NUI Galway Student, with Joe Schmidt at the Galway University for a session where Joe shared some of the secrets of their success and provide a unique insight into their winning strategy, approach to campaign planning and motivational strategies. Photo:Andrew Downes
Robbie Henshaw , Connacht Rugby and NUI Galway Student, with Joe Schmidt at the Galway University for a session where Joe shared some of the secrets of their success and provide a unique insight into their winning strategy, approach to campaign planning and motivational strategies. Photo:Andrew Downes

IRELAND coach Joe Schmidt has revealed how he initially had doubts about taking on the job of Leinster coach – despite going on to deliver two Heineken Cup wins for the side.

Schmidt proved hugely successful during his three-year reign at the club, but admitted he was in awe of some of the club's top players, including Brian O'Driscoll, at first.

He also revealed that O'Driscoll's decision to retire was down to his concern he would no longer get picked.

In a frank address at the NUI Galway campus, the Ireland coach recalled his decision to make the move to Leinster.

"I had doubts about taking over a good team. They'd won the Heineken Cup two years previously. They had some players like Brian O'Driscoll who I was in awe of. If I had to coach someone like that, how do I coach them if I'm intimidated by them?" he told the audience.

However, his fears were quickly allayed by the club's senior players, most notably Johnny Sexton.

STRENGTH

"I asked: 'What about if somebody doesn't follow the team or if somebody isn't pulling their weight or doing the right thing?'

"And I'll never forget, Johnny Sexton didn't miss a beat, and he just said: 'You don't have to worry about that. We'll take care of that'.

"If the players drive the environment it is a massive, massive strength in any environment," he said.

Schmidt also told how he constantly gets asked about how the team will fare without O'Driscoll. And he revealed how the great player himself believes he no longer has the speed for the game.

"I was talking to Brian for a couple of hours over coffee the other day and he was saying people mention to him why doesn't he do one more year? He said because he doesn't think he'd get picked anyway, that he's getting slower, he still sees things quickly but I think he feels it's a good time to go out.

"I think he went out in unbelievably good style."

The coach also revealed how Leinster would always hold a special place in his heart "for all sorts of reasons".

"I couldn't believe that day in Cardiff, I'll never forget that," he said in reference to the famous comeback in the Heineken Cup final of 2011.

The hero coach was greeted at the college by young members of the college's rugby youth academy, NUI Galway students, and Connacht players Robbie Henshaw and Eoin Griffin.

Schmidt also warned against sports schools and academies leaving young players without the ability to make their own decisions.

He stressed the importance of allowing young players to become leaders by learning to make their own choices.

Schmidt said he puts young players in pressure situations as soon as they enter the squad, forcing them to find their own way.

Irish Independent

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