| 6.9°C Dublin

shrewd schmidt gets high praise

Joe Schmidt is "one of the best coaches in the Test arena" and could lead the British and Irish Lions in 2017, according to Will Greenwood.

Former England centre Greenwood revealed he has put money on Ireland claiming World Cup glory this year, tipping Schmidt's men to safeguard his stake on England.

The 2003 World Cup winner expects England and Ireland to square off in the last four of this year's global battle, with the winner too close to call.

A strong World Cup could install Ireland's Kiwi boss Schmidt as a credible rival to Wales coach Warren Gatland to lead the Lions' next tour to New Zealand.

"I started putting money on Ireland for the World Cup at 25/1 about eight months ago," Greenwood said.

"I'm backing Ireland to win their group, and optimistically backing England to win theirs, so that those two would meet in the semi-final.

"So if you back them both, you've got a pretty nice price on one of them in the final. That's partly my thinking, but also I believe Ireland have a great chance.

"Schmidt is a very shrewd man, you can see with some of the moves he created that armed his Leinster side when they were winning big tournaments, big trophies, big matches.

"Then there's the thought process behind the Tommy Bowe try which was chipped back the other way by Conor Murray against South Africa in November."

Ireland have suffered just three defeats in 13 Test matches under Schmidt, rising to third in the world rankings and claiming the 2014 Six Nations title.

Greenwood believes Schmidt's side could go on to mirror the kind of build-up England enjoyed before lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy in 2003.

"What Schmidt has done in the last year or so, it's the kind of record that Clive (Woodward) used to put together with England in the years leading up to 2003," said Greenwood.

"You start building that sort of track-record you have to be earmarked as one of the best coaches in the Test arena.

"There's no doubt with what he's done he'd have to be absolutely marked out as having the respect of all the other international coaches.

"And I'm pretty sure right now most international sides, if you ask them who has a chance of winning the World Cup, most players would probably throw Ireland into a hat of three or four."

Schmidt could build a fine case to succeed All Blacks boss Steve Hansen following the 2017 Lions tour, even more so if he leads the British side in his homeland.

Greenwood conceded the Lions board will already be weighing up whether to keep faith with Gatland or eye a switch to Schmidt in two years' time.

"Obviously Warren did an amazing job and won a series in Australia," said Greenwood.

"You tend to get your name as a Lions man if you can deliver success.

"But if there's a shortlist then Joe Schmidt must be on it."