Sunday 17 November 2019

Joe: It hasn't been a job, it has been a way of life

Joe Schmidt is greeted by fans Lauren (4) and Luke (9) Thomas, from Newry, on the Ireland rugby team’s return at Dublin Airport. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Joe Schmidt is greeted by fans Lauren (4) and Luke (9) Thomas, from Newry, on the Ireland rugby team’s return at Dublin Airport. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Des Berry

The man nobody knew from 'Adam' became the other Joe Show in town that everyone wanted to see.

When Jonathan Sexton returned from meeting the little-known Clermont-Auvergne backs coach in 2010, he worried that the short, slender man he had encountered was too mild-mannered, just too nice to be Leinster head coach.

The demanding Ireland out-half couldn't have been more wrong.

Joe Schmidt has shown incredible game knowledge, work ethic, ruthlessness and judgment to take Leinster and Ireland to unprecedented heights.

It has been quite the journey from man of mystery - because no one really knew who he was - to perennial winner all the way through his Leinster tenure in the PRO12 League in 2013, the Heineken Cup, twice in 2011 and 2012, and the European Challenge Cup in 2013.

Scripted

Then, the New Zealander couldn't have scripted the first two seasons in charge of Ireland much better with back-to-back Six Nations championships in 2014 and 2015.

There were any number of one-off milestones from there to the 2018 Grand Slam, culminating in the personal accolade of the World Coach of the Year last November.

Schmidt was at the peak of his powers and his power as Ireland looked unstoppable in dethroning New Zealand. Then came England to Dublin. And Schmidt and Ireland have never been the same since.

Perhaps, it was more than a coincidence that the Kiwi has used the word "broken" to book-end those defeats to England in February and New Zealand last Saturday.

The last calendar year, heck the last match, of Schmidt's reign, will tear at him for as long as he is away from the game. That may not be too long.

"I'm sure my wife (Kellie) is thinking what else is he going to do as well!?" he smiled in Dublin airport last night. "I know I'm not going to do it (coach) in the near future.

"I've been blown away by some of the approaches and incredibly humbled by them.

"I made a commitment that I'm going to absolutely stick to, through to at least June or July of next year.

"As a family, we'll sort of step back and decide what people want to do and how we'll go about things.

"It hasn't been a job, it has been a way of life," he stated. "It has been seven days a week. I think I can honestly say, in six-and-a-half years I've not taken one full day off.

"There's not one day where I don't think I've either been scribbling notes or watching footage, or getting to a game or doing some coaching. I've loved it."

Irish Independent

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