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Taming the Lion king

IT could be seen as the master against the apprentice, given that Ian McGeechan has been at the helm of four British & Irish Lions tours in an international coaching career stretching back to 1986, while Joe Schmidt became a head coach for the first time in his career just 18 months ago.

McGeechan, Bath's director of rugby, won 32 caps for Scotland between 1972 and 1977 as a 'will o' the wisp' centre with quick feet and a sharp brain.

He put the latter to good use when making the transition into coaching and climbing all the way to the top of the profession.



Stint

He has taken on two stints as Scotland head coach (1988-1993 and 1999-2003), which included the 1990 Grand Slam with the considerable influence of sidekick Jim Telfer.

His second coming as Scotland's saviour did not work out too well and a waning reputation was rescued by a highly successful period as director of rugby at London Wasps for four years (2005-2009), where he was the architect behind their Heineken Cup glory in 2007.

McGeechan's coaching career will always be remembered for four Lions tours in 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2009, his most recent appointment made because neither Clive Woodward nor Graham Henry could tap into the magic of what it meant to be a successful Lions coach.

This summer he made the move from consultant to Bryan Redpath at Gloucester to become director of rugby at the Recreation Ground, and his name has already been mentioned to lead the 2013 Lions' tour to Australia. He truly is the northern hemisphere's version of 'Mr Rugby'.

Funnily enough, this was the much advertised opinion of Leinster's Isa Nacewa on hearing of the appointment of Schmidt as Leinster coach midway through the 2009-2010 season.

Relatively unknown in Ireland, except for Mullingar, where he spent 1990 as player/coach, Schmidt was heralded as the 'good cop' backs coach to Vern Cotter's 'bad cop' head coach role at Clermont-Auvergne, when the club reached the French Championship final four years straight before winning the Bouclier de Brennus in May 2010.

Before that, he had served his time as coach to the New Zealand Schools, the Bay of Plenty Rugby and as the backs coach to Auckland Blues for three seasons.



Shadows

The approachable New Zealander had to make a decision whether to move out of the shadows as an assistant to take complete charge of a side.

In his first season, Schmidt triggered the greatest comeback in Heineken Cup final history by turning a 16-point half-time deficit into an 11-point full-time winning margin last May against Northampton Saints at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

It would seem this is his favourite month. He aims to be at Twickenham next May to make it back-to-back Heinekens.

McGeechan will have something to say about that on Sunday and the following Saturday.


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