A former Irish test midfielder has claimed the All Blacks would be much improved if Joe Schmidt replaced Steve Hansen as head coach after next year's Rugby World Cup.

Luke Fitzgerald, who played 34 tests for Ireland before retiring in June 2016, told The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast, Schmidt should be credited for Ireland's improved fitness and self-belief.

He insists the All Blacks should look no further for Hansen's position as head coach if and when he retires after the 2019 event.

"I honestly think that no one else would have a chance," says Fitzgerald of the All Blacks with Schmidt at the helm.


"Joe would get them humming; you wouldn't be able to get the ball off them. They're good at the set piece, but he would improve that and he would have them picking teams apart."

Fitzgerald also revealed the heartbreaking moment just over five years ago that turned the Irish side into the biggest threat to the All Blacks' dominance.

Ryan Crotty's incredible try, which broke Irish hearts in Dublin in 2013 helped change attitudes and training techniques for Schmidt's team who have since risen to become the second-best rugby nation in the world, Fitzgerald said.

Crotty's try five years ago which came after the final hooter at the Aviva Stadium, allowed the All Blacks to draw level, with Aaron Cruden's conversion putting them in front for the first time in the test for a dramatic 24-22 win.

The midfielder was on the end of an amazing team effort from the All Blacks, who received the ball deep in their territory and put on phase after phase for more than two minutes before they got the breakthrough.

Ryan Crotty of the All Blacks scores the match winning try against Ireland at Aviva Stadium in 2013. Photo / Getty
Ryan Crotty of the All Blacks scores the match winning try against Ireland at Aviva Stadium in 2013. Photo / Getty

Kiwi coach Schmidt decided then and there to improve the Irish defence by strengthening their fitness with a killer drill at the end of trainings which pushed his players to their limits.

Since then they have won two Six Nations titles and a grand slam and have beaten the All Blacks for the first time – in Chicago in 2016.

Fitzgerald says the 2013 test was significant for many reasons.

"That game was a real turning point, even in how Ireland trained," he said.

"Joe made a few slight changes off the back of that one," Fitzgerald says. "The length of the last play was really long. We used to have this unbelievable drill and it goes on for what he felt was the longest passage of play that you would come up against. We would do that passage really, really hard and do three or four sets of it at the end of training.

"It was about four minutes and that [last play] was five minutes. [Schmidt] was like, 'we need to be able to cope with five minutes' and he changed the training drills off the back of that. It was really interesting."

Johnny Sexton's penalty miss with six minutes to play in 2013 was also significant and it appeared to damage his team's psychological state as they pushed for their first-ever win over the All Blacks. It certainly altered the crowd's as the self-belief among the Irish supporters seemed to drift away into the cold night air.

A successful kick would have pushed the score out to 25-17, meaning the All Blacks would have had to score twice to win – unlikely even for them.