Some facts are just unknown. Who will win; obviously. Things like the bounce of a rugby ball will always open an list of many variables. Unknowns in sport lead to unforeseen results. But after this weekend, fans know that Joe Schmidt is certainly at the front of the line, to be the future All Blacks coach……if he chose to.
Success can breed an appearance of options. Individuals, players or coaches, are in demand, and so hold the options on their futures. While Schmidt is still confirmed to direct the Irish case for a Rugby World Cup final place, the timeline post-Cup is in the hands of the coach.
And even while current International roles are always a negotiable position, many think the future All Blacks coaching position is one placement that may have been influenced this weekend. The best candidates are obvious options, so Joe Schmidt has strode forward, to be at the front of an imaginary line.
Joe Schmidt at front of the line be Future All Blacks Coach
Teams who won this weekend; International teams that is, included Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Of those, the most impressive was Ireland capturing the ‘Grand Slam’.
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) March 17, 2018
After this weekend, fans across the rugby globe may have seen several key points highlighted: (1) how good is this current Irish rugby team? and (2) if Joe Schmidt could be considered as the future Al Blacks coach.
The former is comparative, but has good evidence to back it up. Primarily, that Ireland have beaten all the leading teams over the last 24 months. Apart from an occasional slip, the side have gone unbeaten over the highly competitive NatWest Six Nations.
Look back, more so over the last two years, but especially since Joe Schmidt was appointed head coach, the high improvement rate is reward for good form. While the 2017 tour of South Africa saw a 2-1 series defence by the Springboks, few teams have been able to hold this dangerous side.
World Rugby Ranking a reflection of Irish Rugby’s choice
🌍 Latest @WorldRugby rankings
— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) March 12, 2018
The recent elevation in rankings is just deserts for Schmidt. Having given his team the tools to perform, although missing out on the 2017 Six Nations title after losses to Scotland and Wales. 12 months later, they have bounced back magnificently to earn the nation’s third-ever Grand Slam.
Great reward too for the coach. Known for his professionalism and tactical awareness, Joe Schmidt has gone from an Assistant Coach in Super Rugby and Top 14, to then driving Leinster in the Pro12 competition. Claiming the 2012/13 title, as well as the 2012 Heineken Cup, his status in the Celtic League led directly to his ascension to the Ireland Head Coach role in mid 2013.
And over his term, the New Zealand born coach has given more shine to the Emerald green in Ireland. Always admired as a passionate side, yet they had lacked the final touches. Never advancing further than a quarterfinal of any Rugby World Cup, the side had needed to be reinvented–and Joe Schmidt has achieved that.
Could Joe Schmidt be the Future All Blacks Coach?
Like many other International head coaches, Schmidt’s employment contract ends after the final whistle of the 2019 RWC. And while like others, he plans to lead his team to a [triumphant] finals appearance. Whichever way the result goes, coaches – including New Zealand coach Steve Hansen – will all have decisions to make.
Hansen has the decision to re-apply, but is widely seen as ending his 16 year time with the All Blacks. And this leads to the line which is forming to replace him. And even while the All Blacks or Ireland might either win or compete in the final, for the majority, the pinnacle coaching role is with New Zealand.
The options may be wider for Joe Schmidt than many consider. At the front of the line for New Zealand Rugby, however he has been in Ireland for such a longtime, that he is now a citizen. Holding dual-citizenship might not influence the outcome, but it does mean he has a relationship. And a successful rugby relationship can often last a lifetime.
How could the All Blacks role appeal to Schmidt? That might be a misnomer, as the legendary team would likely be attractive to 90% of every applicant. He would also be moving back to his birthplace, and has ties with New Zealand.
It is more relative to the outcome of the 2019 Japan Rugby World Cup. Perform well, or even win the tournament, and the odds might favour Joe Schmidt being convinced to extend his term in green. The call of ‘All Black’ might dull, when celebrating an Irish RWC victory.
Joe Schmidt could have all the options on the Table in 2019
Getty too far ahead of ourselves, the consideration for Schmidt may have to come sooner rather than later. Because contract negotiations will not be entirely dependant on the RWC outcome.
New Zealand have always had the policy of only elevating coaches from within NZ Rugby. And while it had combated the period in the late 1990’s/2000’s when resident coaches began to move abroad. Sir Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Warren Gatland, who all left for foreign clubs/nations.
Since the All Black selections of John Mitchell and Robbie Deans, the last two coaches have each held the role for eight year terms. But as well, it has been the most successful period in recent memory. Two World Cup wins proves that–with a possible third to be competed for.
But as Joe Schmidt has been offshore for many years, would NZ Rugby welcome him home? The answer must surely be yes. Even if a succession plan had been developed, to consider the best candidates, is sensible.
And currently, on form, Joe Schmidt is the best option. Providing he is willing to emigrate back to New Zealand, and provided he can be rewarded adequately (as he will be chased by every other nation and/or club). Then when the time is right, when the coach has looked at his options, then [for mine] Joe Schmidt is at the front of the line be the future All Blacks head coach.
Main image credit:
Embed from Getty Images
Joe Schmidt, Head coach of Ireland arrives prior to the NatWest Six Nations match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium on March 17, 2018 in London, England. Getty images / Laurence Griffiths