This time last year, Joe Schmidt was the man everyone wanted to be the next All Blacks coach.
If he wanted it, the job would be his. That was the way things were 12 months ago. Ireland had defeated the All Blacks for the second time in three tests, their winning try in Dublin coming from a clever set play that was classic Schmidt.
Among a good crop of seasoned New Zealand coaches, Schmidt was the pick of the bunch. He had taken Ireland from being a side that occasionally won to a side that consistently won.
But more importantly he developed them into a team that had the confidence and belief to beat the best. In 111 years of trying Ireland had never beaten the All Blacks and in Schmidt's first attempt, they came closer than any team could come, leading by five points in 2013 with 30 seconds left.
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In his second attempt, the Irish didn't make the same mistake. They held their nerve in Chicago and closed out with a try of their own to make history.
When they repeated the feat two years later in Dublin, Schmidt established himself as a special coach. That day last year, Ireland looked nothing like Ireland of yesteryear and whatever Schmidt had, the All Blacks wanted it.
And yet here we are, right in the thick of the whole recruitment for a new All Blacks coach business and Schmidt's name is not in the conversation.
He has finished with Ireland and believed to be coming home to New Zealand, where he wants to have a life unencumbered by a frantic professional obligation.
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He needs to take some time out, to actually be with his family like a normal dad and husband and not grab snatched moments here and there with his phone buzzing relentlessly before taking off for weeks and months at a time.
His need for normality is understandable, but this can't surely be it for Schmidt as far as coaching goes? He can't be lost to the game forever?
He's too young, got too much to offer and frankly, the All Blacks need him.
Nothing has changed in the last 12 months in regards to where he sits: he remains the smartest rugby brain New Zealand has.
He is the best qualified man to be the next All Blacks coach and it would be remiss bordering on a travesty for him to not be involved with the national team in some capacity for some period of this next World Cup cycle.
The All Blacks need access to his rugby intelligence. They would benefit enormously for having Schmidt's influence, just as the All Blacks benefited enormously by having Wayne Smith's influence between 2004 and 2011 and again between 2015 and 2017.
Schmidt in some ways is similar to Smith – a deep thinker with a sometimes oblique take on the game. He's innovative and meticulous, capable of drilling into the micro detail just as Smith was.
What's unknown is the question of ego and being able to reinvent as it would seem impossible now for Schmidt, without a radical change of heart, to be a head coach candidate this time round.
But Smith was big enough and team-driven enough to come back to the All Blacks as an assistant coach in 2004 after he was effectively fired from his previous two -year stint as head coach in 2000 and 2001.
Could Schmidt do the same? Could he, after spending the last decade as a head coach, be persuaded that his obvious talents, expertise and knowledge could be brilliantly utilised in an auxiliary role?
The loss of control wouldn't be easy to accept. He was the boss of Ireland for seven years where he had responsibility for every decision made. Ireland played to his vision and some long-serving head coaches are just not capable of shifting their mind-set to taking a role where they would no longer have the ultimate say.
But the flip side is that while he would lose total control, so too would he lose total accountability and an assistant role with the All Blacks would come with less pressure, something which may suit him after so long in the Irish media spotlight.
At the moment, there are three, possibly four men likely to make the coaching short-list – Ian Foster, Scott Robertson, Jamie Joseph and maybe Dave Rennie.
They will be judged as much for what their wider tram brings as they themselves do and if any one of them can persuade Schmidt to be part of their coaching mix, then it will be a game changer.
If Schmidt can be convinced to come back to the coaching fold – be it in July or even later in the year – then the All Blacks will be looking at a different future to the one they will face without him.