It’s a dramatic turn of events given the 56-year-old’s long and successful spell with Ireland, including two famous wins over the All Blacks. Schmidt was originally supposed to join the All Blacks as a selector/analyst after the series, but has answered Foster’s SOS call.
1 How big will Schmidt’s role be this week?
Enormous. He is recognized as a world class coach – arguably the best coach in New Zealand at the moment, alongside a certain S Robertson of Sumner and W Smith of the Black Ferns. His fingerprints were all over the Blues this year, even though he should have played a supporting role. With Foster, Plumtree and McLeod all missing, and Covid-19 in camp, the All Blacks need someone with experience and a laser-like focus to guide them through the week. Ireland has Covid problems of its own – they announced on Monday that winger Mack Hansen has been isolated after testing positive – but they have arrived in New Zealand with a clear goal of winning the series.
† All Blacks hit by Covid: Ian Foster, John Plumtree, Scott McLeod, two players test positive
† Is Joe Schmidt About to Join All Blacks Coaching?
† ‘I’ve fought back before’: Brad Weber tries to regain All Blacks spot again
† Ireland warned to expect ‘dirty, dirty and angry’ All Blacks side looking for revenge on rugby
† Five: Multiple reasons for All Blacks to be vigilant as Ireland wants to make history
† Joe Schmidt ready to ‘challenge’ the thinking of All Blacks – just the way Ian Foster wants it
2 That’s great news – please tell me that means the All Blacks now have Schmidt full time
That remains to be seen, but the general theory about Schmidt is that his love and capacity for coaching is so intense that once he’s on a team, he can’t resist the urge to hit the paddock with the players. to go. He lives and breathes rugby, to the point where some Irish players found its intensity off-putting. The All Blacks won’t care about that. It’s an open secret that they’ve been trying to get Schmidt on board in some role for a while now and Foster’s phone call this week shows the tremendous confidence they have in him. As for Schmidt, he likes to keep himself to himself, but his willingness to coach against his former side Ireland shows two things. First, the fire is still burning brightly. Second, you can get the kid from New Zealand…the All Blacks clearly have a huge emotional attraction to him.
3 Why Was Scott Robertson Overlooked?
Sit down, it’s not like anyone gets snubbed. The idea that Robertson and Foster are part of the same team is somewhat imaginative: it must be remembered that they were rivals for the same work. They are their own men with their own ideas, misfits and philosophies. Robertson’s time for a new top job will come, and the Crusaders’ great final against the Blues shows that he is the best candidate. But bringing him in now would just make for an awkward marriage.
4 How will the Irish react?
There will be some raised eyebrows. While Schmidt was always expected to be lured back into the coaching game at some point, he was not involved as a selector/analyst until the end of the Ireland series. That was interpreted as Schmidt’s unwillingness to be involved against his former side, but of course that has its limits. Ireland has moved on since Schmidt left, but he knows most of their players inside out. Will they feel a little let down deep down?
5 This makes rugby suddenly seem exciting again. Am I wrong?
No you are not. It’s been a dramatic start to the week – more akin to what we see in the NRL – and the storyline of Schmidt coaching Ireland feels like it was written by Silver Lake with the help of their friends in Hollywood. Interest in the Eden Park test will be huge in both hemispheres. Schmidt’s arrival could also be the turning point the All Blacks need as they look ahead to the Rugby World Cup in 2023. Unburdened by loyalty or sentimentality to the long-serving All Blacks, Schmidt could give a ruthless edge to one side which has drifted sideways for two years. This can be big.
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