Sport Rugby

Tuesday 16 July 2019

'The boys still slag me about it' - Johnny Sexton thought Joe Schmidt was 'too nice' to succeed when he first met him

Joe Schmidt and Johnny Sexton celebrate Six Nations success in Paris in 2014
Joe Schmidt and Johnny Sexton celebrate Six Nations success in Paris in 2014 Newsdesk Newsdesk

Ireland and Leinster star Johnny Sexton has revealed how he still gets a ribbing over his initial assessment of Joe Schmidt.

Sexton, along with Leo Cullen and then Leinster forwards coach Jono Gibbes, met with the Kiwi ahead of his appointment by the province and the flyhalf had reservations.

"I thought he was a bit too nice to be a head coach - how wrong could I have been?" he told the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast.

"He is in fact the most ruthless man I have ever met in terms of preparation.

"I remember meeting him probably eight or nine years ago in Leinster along with Leo Cullen and [former Leinster forwards coach] Jono Gibbes.

"Leinster had interviewed him and thought he could be the guy going forward, and they said they wanted a few of the players to meet him.

"After the meeting Leo and Jonno asked me what I thought; I said I thought he was a bit too nice to be a head coach - the boys still slag me about it now.

"At the time, we'd had Michael Cheika for the previous three years and we had a real hard-working group and Michael had instilled that in us and Joe was exactly what we needed.

"Leo is obviously a better judge than I am.

"He's been a massive part of my career in terms of helping me develop as a player but I think he's improved so much over the past eight years. He's a different coach to the one that came here and that's a testament to him. Every year, he brings something new to the table. He's always challenging us in different areas to improve and he improves himself as well."

Schmidt went on to win two Heineken Cup titles and a Pro 12 title before taking over with Ireland in 2013 and claiming three Six Nations titles in four years, including a Grand Slam this year.

Two wins over the All Blacks, a first ever victory on South African style and a series win in Australia have also been delivered under his watch.

Ronan O'Gara last week claimed that Schmidt and Roy Keane will be credited for changing the face of Irish sport in years to come.

O'Gara feels that the stand fellow Corkman Keane took over the facilities in Saipan, that saw him sent home from the 2002 World Cup, changed sporting psychology in this country.

He also believes that the attention to detail and the change of mindset Schmidt has brought to Irish rugby is something that will be forensically examined in the future.

Sexton identified Keane as someone he takes inspiration on as he  tries to set standards on the field.

"What people don't realise is that when you have a go at someone [during a game], you put massive pressure on yourself," Sexton explained.

"Communication is a big part of the position I play, and I try and manage the team as best I can.

"I was a big fan of Manchester United growing up and still am unfortunately. Roy Keane was a hero of mine. He always produced on the big days and I am sure it was similar for him with that leadership role."

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