World Rugby Player of the Year Johnny Sexton has admitted he once thought Joe Schmidt was “too nice” to lead a team.
“How wrong could I have been? He is in fact the most ruthless man I have ever met in terms of preparation,” the Irish five-eighth said on the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast.
Schmidt and Sexton have worked together since the former joined Leinster in 2010 and eventually took over Ireland in 2013. Together the pair have won several club and international trophies and toppled the All Blacks twice.
Schmidt – recently named World Rugby’s Coach of the Year – has announced that he will step down after next year’s World Cup to take a break from coaching and spend more time with family.
Sexton revealed to the BBC that he was part of the interview process when Schmidt was in the hunt for the Leinster job after three years assisting with Clermont.
“Leinster had interviewed him and thought he could be the guy going forward, and they said they wanted a few of the players to meet him,” Sexton said.
“After the meeting, Leo [Cullen] and Jono [former forwards coach Jono Gibbes] asked me what I thought; I said I thought he was a bit too nice to be a head coach – the boys still slag me about it now.”
Leinster hired Schmidt and they were quickly rewarded with two European Cups before Schmidt took over the Ireland national side in 2013.
Under Schmidt Ireland have risen to second in the world after securing a Six Nations Grand Slam and beating New Zealand in Dublin before being named World Rugby’s Team of the Year.
“Joe has been a huge part of my career in terms of helping me develop as a player,” Sexton told the BBC. “As a 10 you are only as good as the guys around you, and the coach plays a pivotal role in terms of having the group organised and giving you a clear game plan.”
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