Tuesday 15 October 2019

'Maybe that will interest him' - Brian O'Driscoll thinks one job could bring Joe Schmidt out of retirement

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

Brian O'Driscoll thinks Joe Schmidt may end his rugby retirement to coach the Lions in 2021, with the legendary centre saying that the Ireland boss would be 'very high on the list' of candidates.

Schmidt announced this week that he will leave his role as Ireland boss after the 2019 World Cup in Japan, surprisingly adding that he will step away from coaching completely due to family commitments.

However, despite Schmidt's public statement, there is still speculation that the decorated head coach - who has already claimed three Six Nations titles and two European Cups during his decade in Ireland - could be enticed back into rugby with the right job.

The Lions tour to South Africa in 2021 would allow Schmidt recharge his batteries for a year before returning to the coaching world, although the next tour will have even less preparation time than the 2017 trip to New Zealand, where players infamously were still feeling the effects of jet-lag ahead of the first warm-up game.

However, HSBC global rugby sevens ambassador O'Driscoll thinks that Schmidt could devote the 2020/21 season to the project, which would allow his meticulous attention-to-detail to be put towards planning a first series win in South Africa since 1997.

"I'd be surprised if he doesn't have a little taste for being involved in a Lions tour in two years time," O'Driscoll told Independent.ie.

"Joe is a good fit with any environment. If you gave him a Barbarians team, he'd probably get them playing some great stuff in three days. That new, shortened tour is not conducive to helping the Lions, but if someone can do it and someone can put in the time necessary to pick apart a Springboks team, he'd be very, very high on the list.

"I think he has really enjoyed the international stuff where it hasn't been day-to-day, I thought he was going to really miss that. I think he has enjoyed that. Take that back another step, and all the preparation for a Lions tour, and then hit the ground running for five weeks, maybe that is something that will interest him. I'd imagine it would."

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Schmidt's decision to move on from the Ireland job didn't come as a surprise, with many speculating that the Kiwi would return home to take over the All Blacks after the World Cup. However, O'Driscoll thinks that Schmidt's all-encompassing approach may have contributed to his announcement that he has decided to walk away from coaching.

"There's a lot of pressure that comes with coaching and maybe when we see the cool, calm exterior all the time, he is not feeling that internally," O'Driscoll said.

"I'm sure he has a multitude of opportunities in business as well. He has been hard at it for a long time. When you are the focal point and there is an expectation to deliver, which he has done with every side he has been involved with, that takes it's toll as well.

"I genuinely don't know if he has expectations to be the All Blacks coach. I think maybe he needs a bit of a reset to step away and think about himself a little bit, and take some time of not watching 60 hours of footage a week on top of all the other stuff in the team environment."

Brian O’Driscoll is a HSBC global rugby sevens ambassador. He is working alongside HSBC to support the explosive growth of rugby sevens, helping the exciting and unpredictable sport thrive all over the world. Follow all the action at @HSBC_Sport on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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