All Blacks legend Richie McCaw believes the New Zealand Rugby Union would not hesitate to set aside their long-standing policy of only appointing internal coaching successors if it meant they could snatch Joe Schmidt from Ireland’s clutches next year.
“I think they would because I think that they want the best that they can get,” says the world’s most-capped player (148), who led his country to their two most recent World Cup triumphs, in 2011 and 2015.
“So I don’t see that being a stopper at all. If you have the best coach available who wants to come back, and he’s motivated to coach the All Blacks and he’s the right man for the job, well then you would have to weigh all those things up.
“I guess if you’re appointing someone like that then that’s what you’ve got to balance. And I guess you’ve got to talk to a guy like Joe, or whoever else they put in the hat, and see what their motivations are in terms of whether they’d be happy to do that.
“He’s been away for a while but there’s no doubt amongst the people who understand rugby who know that he has a very good way of looking at the game. He’s quite innovative. He looks at ways of pushing everyone to get better.
“He’s probably quite an intense character but that drives a standard of the excellence side of things.
“Everybody sits there hoping one day he’ll come back and put himself back in the mix in New Zealand and we get the benefit of all the experience he’s had coaching at an international level.”
Yesterday Schmidt named his side to face Argentina tomorrow but it did not include Rob Kearney (shoulder) or Garry Ringrose (hip).
However, Schmidt said both players are “highly likely” to be available to face the All Blacks in eight days’ time as they are expected to return to full training on Monday.
Sean O’Brien returns for the first time in a year while Jordan Larmour, scorer of a hat-trick against Italy, retains the full-back slot.
Asked if there were different challenges with assuming the reins with the best team in the world compared to those with Ireland, McCaw added that Schmidt’s achievements with Ireland demanded respect.
“I think there are different challenges. But with regard to a team ranked six in the world, getting them to believe in being amongst the top two and knocking off the top teams, that’s a skill in itself, to instil that belief in the game that they have got and that they can then show it.
“A lot of that would transfer to the one at the top, trying to keep innovating and looking at ways to be better. With most of the skills and the attributes, it wouldn’t matter which team you are with if you bring a team at the end to believe in something.
“There’s no doubt he is a pretty talented coach and he has the Irish team in pretty good shape. It’s going to be interesting come next year.
“From Ireland’s view, you want to try and lock him in. And from New Zealand’s point of view, if Steve Hansen doesn’t continue, they are going to want all options on the table.
“If he wants to put his name in the hat it will be good to have a good coach like that looking around. I suppose it will be hard for Joe because he wants to concentrate on doing a good job for the next 12 months.”
McCaw made his debut against Ireland here in 2001 and, as had been the way for a century and more, never lost to them but, sitting beside another legendary World Cup-winning captain, Sean Fitzpatrick, he did witness the famous Chicago defeat for his nation.
“I always go back to the 2013 Dublin game and Wellington, how it went to the wire, and there have been a few times when the result was hanging in the balance. At some point the Irish were going to find a way through.
“We were a bit selfish there, myself and Sean sitting down afterwards, thinking we kept the record intact. But I suppose it was always going to be inevitable that it would end some day.
“That’s the great thing with sport. It’s not a given. The Irish played particularly well that day. And sometimes just getting over the hump once can make the difference.
“So it will be interesting to see what their belief is going into next week’s game and beyond.”
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