Scots told to beware ‘rugby anorak’ Schmidt
JOE Schmidt is a “rugby anorak” but it’s his mastery of detail that can see Ireland edge to within a win of only their third Six Nations Grand Slam, Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll said.
Schmidt, whose side today host a Scotland side boosted by a memorable win over champions England but with a woeful away record in the Six Nations, is not the one-dimensional coach often portrayed by some people, O’Driscoll said.
O’Driscoll knows Schmidt well as he played for the 52-year-old New Zealander at Leinster -- winning backto-back European Cups -- and in the last year of his test career, which climaxed with victory over France in Paris to win the 2014 Six Nations title.
“Maybe we won back-to-back European Cups for him,” O’Driscoll chuckled when he spoke at the Laureus Awards in Monaco.
“One word you associate with Joe Schmidt is detail. Like I have never known any coach to scrutinise a game like him.
“He is an absolute rugby anorak, it is his passion as well as his profession. He is a bit of an insomniac too as he watches so much of it.
“Great comfort of that is he already has a plan for England [their final match next Saturday at Twickenham]. Yes, he has one for Scotland, but for England he will have a fair idea of which way he goes and you will see him tweak two or three things.”
O’Driscoll, Ireland’s most capped player with 133, and who captained them to the 2009 Grand Slam, illustrated Schmidt’s versatility in sizing up opponents with a move against Wales in the 37-27 victory.
Although it didn’t come off, it had been specifically planned on ac- count of something the New Zealander had seen as a potential blind spot for the Welsh.
“That was solely done for Wales because he [Schmidt] identified something,” O’Driscoll, who is the all-time record try scorer with 26 in the Five/Six Nations, said.
“You get that detail from him as different moves are identified for different teams.
“It’s not a blanket policy that Joe deploys for taking on his opponents.”
Thus far in his five-year reign it has worked wonders -- a thumping defeat by Argentina in the 2015 World Cup quarterfinals being a rare reverse -- with the highlights two Six Nations titles and a historic win over world champions New Zealand.
Schmidt combined coaching with being a schoolmaster when he started out in New Zealand. “He isn’t too schoolmasterly, but you want to know what you are talking about, don’t go off half-cocked,” O’Driscoll said.
“He will sit you down too if needs be, he won’t take any bullshit.
“You are in school as a kid and the teacher asks what is the capital of France. A hand goes up and the pupil says Bordeaux . . . the teacher says ‘very, very good effort but no’.
“The next pupil says Nice, ‘no’ replies teacher, ‘but great effort’; another says Paris and teacher replies ‘well done’.
“With Schmidt, however, there is no bull, so there will be no ‘good effort’ to those who answered Bordeaux and Nice.
“You want to be on the money the whole time, so if you want to challenge something he says you better get it right.”