Brian O’Driscoll has described Joe Schmidt as the man with the “midas touch” and believes the next logical step for the New Zealander could be leading the British & Irish Lions on their 2021 tour to South Africa.
Schmidt announced on Monday that he would be leaving his role as head coach of the men in green after next year’s World Cup in Japan – with his assistant and former Great Britain rugby league captain and England defence coach Andy Farrell taking the reins.
Farrell left his role with the Red Rose following a disastrous World Cup campaign on home soil in 2015. England were the first hosts to fail to reach the knockout stages and incoming coach Eddie Jones sacked Farrell as well as the rest of Stuart Lancaster’s backroom staff.
He subsequently joined Schmidt’s entourage in January 2016 as defence coach ahead of the 2016 Six Nations Championship – and the pair have since constructed the most formidable Ireland squad of all time.
During five years in charge, Schmidt has become the most successful coach in Irish history (during the professional era), boasting a 74.2-per-cent win percentage – surpassing Eddie O’Sullivan’s 64.9 per cent record of 50 wins and 27 defeats during seven years at the helm.
Schmidt has been in charge of 15 fewer games but trails O’Sullivan’s win record of 50 by just four, and boasts by far the biggest trophy cabinet.
Schmidt has led Ireland to three Six Nations championships, including this year’s triple crown and Grand Slam glory.
Even more impressive accolades sitting among those trophies for the men from the Emerald Isle are a pair of glittering victories against the formidable two-time reigning world champions New Zealand.
And Ireland legend O’Driscoll insists after disappointments early on in his coaching career, Schmidt has overseen a golden era in Irish rugby.
“He was very successful at Leinster, he should have been more successful at Clermont than he was. I think they only won one Top 14 title and got to a few finals,” O’Driscoll told Sport360 on Thursday at the Dubai Rugby Sevens, where he is appearing in his role as an HSBC ambassador.
As assistant, Clermont claimed the 2010 Top 14 title after falling at the final hurdle the previous two years.
Schmidt then became head coach in his own right at Leinster, who he led to back-to-back Heineken Cup triumphs in 2011 and 2012, as well as 2013’s Pro12 and European Challenge Cup double. He moved on to Ireland after that and the rest is history.
“He’s got the Midas touch,” added O’Driscoll, Ireland’s record cap holder with 133.
“I’m sure he’ll have aspirations of a little Lions ticket perhaps in two years’ time and why not, watch this space.
“He’s obviously a very clever coach but he covers every inch and leaves nothing to chance. Paul O’Connell made a really good point that loads of the best coaches are schoolteachers because they’re used to being able to deliver a message to a group and dealing with young players.
“If you have the right idea and the right way to verbalise it and you instill a belief in a team as he’s done, it’s a pretty potent formula. He makes you feel as though what he’s saying is the right way.”
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