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.”
One of the UAE’s favourite sporting events, the Dubai Rugby Sevens, is fast approaching and will take place at the Sevens Stadium from November 29-December 1.
Whether it’s your first time attending the event or if you’re a seasoned pro, here is a look at our top tips to help get the most out of your weekend.
If you’re based around Dubai or further afield, it’s important to arrive early and avoid the entry queue, which normally starts to build around midday.
Don’t be one of the people who tries to arrive fashionably late because you’ll miss all the fun.
On Sevens weekend, arrive early and make the most of the day!
If you have loose hips like Shakira or are simply in the mood for a consistently good atmosphere, the dnata stand is where it all happens.
You might have some vocal rugby enthusiasts barking from the throngs of the upper stand, but it’s all in good spirits.
If you’re looking for a break away from the dnata stand, the social leagues on pitches two and three offer a combination of solid rugby and plenty of laughs.
The Dubai Sevens is all about what you wear, so if you want to stand out from the crowd then it’s advised to dress up.
Some of the prominent costumes from 2017 include elves, minions, Where’s Wally, Superman, The Incredibles and even a man dressed up as a vending machine.
Do your research early and give yourself enough time to buy or make a unique outfit.
We all love to comfort eat at times, but with many food trucks available at the ground (Bidi Bondi, Left Bank, Giraffe), why not go for a healthy option.
It’ll have you feeling mentally sharp instead of the peaks and troughs that come with feasting on greasy burgers and chips.
It’s always tricky when you have thousands of people battling for taxis at the end of the night, however, last year the queues moved fast and there are even free buses available that bring people back to various locations.
Another option to avoid queuing is to use the Uber or Careem apps and ask the driver to collect you at the gates of the Sevens Stadium.
Barasti, Irish Village and McGettigans are the most popular venues for those making evening plans.
With the weather cooling down, Barasti is the best choice and offers good music and plenty of space. If you have visitors over for the weekend, it’s a safe bet for a consistent night.
South Africa coach Neil Powell has urged for caution ahead of their World Rugby Sevens Series opener this weekend as his side go in search of a third successive title in the UAE.
The Blitzboks are reigning Sevens Series champions and defending champions in Dubai – usurping Fiji of both accolades in 2017.
And despite having a group of players brimming with talent and oozing confidence, it’s still the fear of the unknown that has Powell slightly nervous ahead of the opening tournament.
“All the teams will be a threat,” said Powell at the Dubai Sevens press conference at the Crowne Plaza in Festival City. “Fiji, New Zealand, America, Australia, England can do it on their day. That’s the beauty of sevens.
“There are no easy games out there anymore. It’s going to be difficult and hopefully it’s a challenge we are up for.
“We need to focus on the outcome. It’s going to put pressure on us otherwise. So we need to focus on what we have control over.
“We don’t focus on trying to make it three in a row. We focus on what has been successful for us in the past and we’ll keep working like that to make sure the focus is there.”
After using 28 players during the 2017/18 campaign, the Windhoek native has built impressive squad depth to cover key positions ahead of the start of the ten-round season.
The experience comes in the form of captain Philip Snyman (65 tournaments) and Branco du Preez (61), both of whom missed out the Rugby World Cup Sevens in July‚ where South Africa claimed bronze.
The side also includes the sparkling talents of Werner Kok, Rosko Specman and Kyle Brown, players who can often be the tipping point between the Boks winning and losing.
And with players of this calibre at his disposal, Powell has experience and class to help their drive for a sixth title in Dubai.
“I’m happy with the balance. I’m happy we have some senior guys to add experience and give some guidance,” he said.
“We will look to those senior guys to make their own decisions on the field in those crunch games where one decision can be the difference between winning and losing.
“You need guys like Kyle and Phillips, who has played over 60 tournaments, to be on the field to help the guys be calm in those pressure situations.”
With Seabelo Senatla, Dylan Sage, Tim Agaba and Ruhan Nel having made the switch to fifteens rugby, Powell has ensured that his side remain a competitive force by giving newcomers good opportunities and blending in experience to add steel in those crunch encounters.
However, for all their class, the Blitzboks have shown they are more than capable of managing without star players, and while the likes of Senatla will be sorely missed, there are no gaping holes in the squad.
“We’ve planned for it. When we took that young side to Hong Kong last season, people were saying, ‘what are you doing, you still need to need the world series.’ We knew we’d lose players to fifteens and we needed to build a bigger base to select from,” he said.
“I’m happy how those guys put up their hands in Hong Kong last year and showed they can play at that level. Senior guys are great, but you need young inexperienced guys who can bring that energy.”
The Blitzboks will take on Zimbabwe, Samoa and Argentina in Pool A on Friday.