How Sch­midt found his true call­ing in Ire­land

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby World Cup -

on about 11 or 12kg [al­most two stone]. He came back the next sea­son a to­tally dif­fer­ent bloke. That is why he is so re­silient and re­source­ful as a coach.”

Sch­midt is clearly still a frus­trated player. He has been known to pull a mus­cle join­ing in train­ing with the Ire­land team. It is clear that at least some of his sib­lings match that drive. One of his broth­ers – who he men­tioned be­fore the Samoa match – has a doc­tor­ate in Pa­cific Is­land history. Sch­midt vis­ited him in Apia as a teenager. An­other is a very suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man. They were clearly close as a fam­ily. Sch­midt had planned to move back to New Zealand, once his Ire­land role ended, to look af­ter his mother, be­fore she died ear­lier this year.

Sch­midt played 29 games for Manawatu be­tween 1988 and 1991, the high­light a nar­row 28-23 de­feat by France in 1989, in which Sch­midt scored. But it was clear, even be­fore an Achilles ten­don in­jury in his mid-20s fin­ished him off as a player, that his tal­ents lay else­where.

Again, Sch­midt’s drive, com­mit­ment and abil­ity with peo­ple shine through in the story of how he first left New Zealand, and dis­cov­ered his real call­ing. Aged 24, hav­ing trained as a teacher, Don­ald­son rec­om­mended the young winger to a player-coach role in Westmeath, Ire­land. Sch­midt, who went over with his wife Kel­lie, rapidly trans­formed Mullingar RFC’S for­tunes. “It was an eye-opener,” re­called Wil­lie Macken, who played as a winger with the team. “All of a sud­den, from just run­ning, as ju­nior rugby was all about back then, we had to play with a ball.” Macken said that be­tween one ses­sion and the next Sch­midt raised the ball count from four be­tween four teams to up­wards of 50.

There can be no bet­ter mea­sure of his coach­ing abil­i­ties, first ex­hib­ited as an am­bi­tious 24-yearold, that seven sur­vivors from that record 60-0 de­feat – Rory Best, Johnny Sex­ton, Conor Mur­ray, Cian Healy, Rob Kear­ney, Keith Earls and Peter O’ma­hony – are likely to start in Satur­day’s quar­ter-fi­nal.

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