It's green and black for NZ's Schmidt

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 12:00 27/06/2014
Josef Schmidt
COMING HOME: Heineken Cup-winning coach Josef Schmidt will be returning to New Zealand.

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Aside from a minor blip against the All Blacks, Josef Schmidt has kept on winning with his Ireland team.

After guiding them to two wins in Argentina last week, he was back in Palmerston North this week for his annual pilgrimage.

That was Ireland's first overseas series win in 35 years. At Dublin in November, Schmidt was also a few seconds away from becoming the first Ireland coach to beat the All Blacks.

Since last home he coached Ireland to the Six Nations title in his first year. Now all he misses is not being able to coach a team every day.

He bears no scars from that defeat by the All Blacks, even if it came off the last play of the game in their last game of the tour.

It was only Schmidt's third game as coach and the man from Woodville, a Manawatu wing from 1988 to 1991, says he will always be a Kiwi.

"One thing I would say is there is no split loyalty when you have a group of guys working as hard as our players do," he said.

"In any game you are a little vulnerable before you get on the plane.

"We'd had a few games. It was optimal for us and sub-optimal for them."

While many kicked up a stink about the All Blacks' last pass in that match, and Aaron Cruden getting a second conversion attempt when the Irish players charged early, Schmidt felt both calls were OK and backed referee Nigel Owens.

Schmidt said Cruden does lift his foot, which also duped the England players in the past series, but the kicker must start his approach or move forward to the ball, which he didn't.

"It was massively disappointing for us to have a loss in a game we had to fight for. At the same time that's the nature of it - a whole lot of things did happen and you move forward."

In the Schmidt household, the feelings were mixed. His 18-year-old son had been an All Black fan his whole life.

"After the game he was as devastated as any other Irishman."

Schmidt said that game proved the depth of New Zealand rugby through their replacement players, like Dane Coles' offload to Ryan Crotty.

"The All Black bench is usually influential in the outcome, having that firepower off the bench."

He feels having such depth is what helps the All Blacks to counter the giant packs.

Later Schmidt guided Ireland to only their second away win over France in 42 years to win the Six Nations, the first time they had won it that way, having to play the last two games away from home, against England and France.

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Schmidt has Ireland playing a more open style too.

"We made the most passes in the backline and scored the most tries. If you want to win games you've got to try to go out and win them."

He is glad he won't face any southern hemisphere sides in pool play at the World Cup.

France is the big obstacle and he said they are always "a different beast" at World Cups, not affected by their club championship then.

Schmidt still finds it hard to stomach the All Blacks losing to France at the 2007 World Cup.

And he has no trouble with teams having a few players in their mid-30s, like his lock Paul O'Connell.

"When others might panic, their experience is invaluable.

He pointed out the England team were mature when they won in 2003.

Meanwhile, Schmidt's win with Ireland in Argentina will maintain their momentum since the Six Nations.

His team was without up to six starters and the Pumas a dozen below full strength.

- Manawatu Standard

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