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Monday 22 September 2014

'Step into the unknown' as Schmidt takes on the hopes of a nation

Published 30/04/2013 | 05:00

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IT was the worst-kept secret in sport but rugby fans are toasting Joe Schmidt's appointment as Ireland head coach.

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And the amiable New Zealander, who has made Leinster the kings of Europe, promised to put pressure on Brian O'Driscoll to keep going for at least one more season.

While the IRFU was announcing the news, the man himself was doing what he does best – out on the field at a Leinster training session.

Next stop was an afternoon press conference at the Aviva Stadium, where he was officially 'unveiled'.

Schmidt's three-year contract runs until 2016 – a term that will take in the 2015 World Cup hosted by England and the Six Nations campaign the following year.

"I just want to get out on the field – it's what I was doing this afternoon before I came here," he said.

And while he admitted that the new job is a "step into the unknown", it is an exciting and "highly motivating" one.

All he hopes for is an injury-free period to give him space to "gather the collective together" and put out the performances "the support deserves".

He also made it very clear that he will "put pressure" on O'Driscoll to continue playing for both Leinster and Ireland next season – though he admitted that the new dad is very much his "own man".

Chants

"He has put some pressure on me and I'd like to put a bit of pressure on him. We put a few plants in the crowd to start those chants," quipped Schmidt, in a reference to the chorus of "One more year" from the crowd after Drico's try for Leinster against Biarritz in the Amlin Cup semi-final over the weekend.

Affable, honest – and tieless – the 47-year-old Kiwi already seems to herald in a new era for Irish rugby, in stark contrast to the tense atmosphere that had prevailed in the latter days of Kidney's regime.

Fresh from a Leinster training session at UCD, Schmidt took his seat alongside IRFU CEO Philip Brown promptly at 4pm.

"We all know what Joe can do and what he's done for Leinster," said Mr Browne.

Schmidt takes on the job with the blessing of his wife Kellie and his family.

His eldest son is studying at Terenure College and his youngest son – whom he recently revealed has severe epilepsy – is being looked after "superbly" by Stratford National School, he said.

Meanwhile, his daughter is studying in New Zealand but he hopes the flexibility of his new post – apart from the "suffocating" international playing windows – will mean that he will get back and forth to see her more often.

Irish Independent

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