Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

11 things you need to know about Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt is the low key coach taking Ireland to unprecedented heights, including their stunning first victory over the All Blacks.

He left New Zealand with little fuss nearly 10 years ago, but is now the subject of much fanfare. Here are 11 things you need to know about the popular Kiwi with the Midas touch.

1) Like many top coaches, Schmidt was a schoolteacher. He taught English and/or coached at Palmerston North Boys High, Napier Boys High School and Tauranga College where he was deputy principal.

2) The 51-year-old Schmidt's links with Ireland date back to the early 1990s when he did a year of OE coaching a school team called Wilson's Hospital, an hour's drive west of Dublin. He took the little school to unprecedented success, winning a cup final.

But wait...there's more. He also waved his magic wand as player-coach for Mullingar, according to the Independent, where his scrutiny became legendary.

His assignment for one player included the demand: "Do not smoke in the shower." Schmidt and wife Kellie - they have four children - say they made lifelong friends in Ireland during this time.

3) Schmidt is of small town origins. He was born in Kawakawa, Northland, and brought up in Woodville - population 1470 - near Palmerston North. He went to Tararua College in Pahiatua. He might be Woodville's most famous export. Other Woodville stars include veteran jockey Noel Harris, and soprano Anna Leese. Schmidt became an Irish citizen in 2015, saying : "I wanted to be Irish without being plastic...I feel a little bit more part of the group."

4) His coaching CV reads assistant coach at Bay of Plenty, Auckland Blues, Clermont Auvergne, and head coach of the New Zealand schoolboys, Leinster and Ireland. Former Blues back Isa Nacewa is credited with recommending him to Leinster, turning the tables when Schmidt tried to get Nacewa to join Clermont Auvergne. Schmidt first started coaching with the Palmerston North Boys High School first XV. His youthful looks caused groundstaff to confuse him for a pupil and demand to know why he was wandering out of bounds, according to the Guardian.

5) His playing CV reads 29 games on the wing if for Manawatu...he lined up against Welsh coach Warren Gatland from Waikato in an NPC match once and scored a try against France in 1989.

6) The Schmidts' son Luke has epilepsy and the coach is part of the Be Seizure Aware Campaign. Luke needed a nine-hour operation at the age of six to remove a brain tumour. "That sort of put rugby in perspective," Schmidt told the Manawatu Standard. After winning the Six Nations last year, the Schmidts immediately headed overseas, seeking more specialist treatment for Luke. "...the reality for me is a long way from rugby," Schmidt said.

7) On the back of tremendous success at Leinster including Heineken Cup titles, Schmidt was appointed Ireland's coach in 2013. Ireland were ranked ninth at the time. His successes include a 10 match winning streak, a couple of Six Nations titles, and now Ireland's first victory over the All Blacks. Ireland topped their pool at last year's World Cup, but Schmidt's injury-hit side were smashed by Argentina in the quarterfinals.

8) Fans include former All Black and Australian league international Brad Thorn, who was coached by Schmidt at Leinster.

"Joe has high standards but is able to tell people what they need to know without making it feel like a personal attack. When some coaches critique you, it sounds like they're putting the boot in and you leave the room hating them as a person," Thorn told the BBC.
"...you got the sense he was a good schoolteacher, because he was very good at communicating to large groups."

9) One of the great Irish back Brian O'Driscoll's major regrets is not playing a World Cup under Schmidt.

"If there is a professional game of rugby going on, he has seen it," O'Driscoll told The National.

"If you call him and tell him about a play you have seen, he will know about it. He has a photographic memory about rugby.

"I've never seen a coach show such massive attention to detail, or one with such a smart rugby brain. He makes little tweaks and all of a sudden an opposition defence opens up in front of you. And you look over at him and he's smiling.

"He's a players' coach, because he notices what you do. If you're a workhorse, doing your stuff unseen by almost everyone, he knows you've done the work."

10) Schmidt's Monday review sessions are legendary. The Irish Times put it thus: "There is an underlying fear amongst his players which drives Schmidt's demands that, in addition to mastering basic skills and their own individual roles, they must be constantly working on helping their team-mates. Underpinning this is a fear of not being found out in those Monday morning reviews and specifically a fear of not being seen to let your team-mates down."

11) Will he coach the All Blacks? Both Schmidt and All Blacks boss Steve Hansen are contracted to the next World Cup. Convention dictates he needs to coach a Super Rugby team first but Schmidt has just knocked back the Highlanders and Chiefs. Red tape or no red tape, he must be a big chance to coach the men in black. There is talk he will assist Warren Gatland on the Lions tour to New Zealand next year.

- NZ Herald

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