Joe Schmidt reveals the blueprint to Ireland's success over the All Blacks
After 111 years of failing to register a victory over New Zealand, Ireland broke their long-standing duck in 2016 when they shocked the world to beat the Kiwis 40-29 at Soldier Field in Chicago.
The Irish replicated that feat two years later when they beat the All Blacks on home soil for the first time in their history, clinching a 16-9 win at Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Schmidt was at the helm of Ireland during both wins over his homeland, which he has returned to this year after having left his post as Ireland boss following their World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of the All Blacks in 2019.
Now involved with the Blues as a support coach, and set to join the All Blacks as a selector after their three-test series against Ireland in July, Schmidt has revealed how he prepared the Irish for two of their most famous rugby victories.
Speaking on The Breakdown, Schmidt said he regarded the All Blacks as the world’s best transition team when he first joined the Ireland set-up as Declan Kidney’s successor ahead of the 2013 November test window.
During that window, Schmidt’s first assignments as Ireland boss were tests against Samoa, Australia and New Zealand.
Ireland only enjoyed success against Samoa as they fell to a heavy defeat against the Wallabies before coming up agonisingly short against the All Blacks in a test they lost after Aaron Cruden converted an injury time try scored by Ryan Crotty.
Schmidt pinpointed those defeats to Ireland’s looseness with the ball, which he told The Breakdown was detrimental against an All Blacks team that he described as a ruthless attacking outfit.
“The very first time we played them in 2013, I’d had the team for two weeks and we’d played Samoa and then got thumped a bit by Australia, and we were loose with the ball,” Schmidt said.
“I’ve always felt that New Zealand were the best transition team in the world. If you kicked loosely to them or you’re loose with the ball, they will really go after you.
“We decided we’d just try to make sure that New Zealand were forced to make every tackle, that we weren’t going to give them anything that was loose and that they couldn’t get any real counter-attack against us.”
The lessons Ireland learned from that missed opportunity to score an historic win over the All Blacks were implemented when the two teams next squared off in the United States three years later, and in Dublin two years after that.
Even in the wake of Schmidt’s departure from Ireland, the Andy Farrell-coached side has gone on to pick up a third win over the All Blacks, beating Ian Foster’s men 29-20 in Dublin last year.
The defeat was one of three New Zealand suffered last year, resulting in fierce criticism of Foster and the national team as a whole, and the subsequent recruitment of Schmidt as a selector.
However, Schmidt told The Breakdown that he would still be concerned about coming up against the current All Blacks side if he was still the head coach of an opposition team.
“You look at who was available for the All Blacks, they still think they’re a really dangerous transition team if they get loose ball or loose opportunity. That would worry me if I was coaching against them,” he said.
Schmidt also shed some light into how he managed to achieve success against the Wallabies and Springboks during his reign as Ireland head coach.
He noted the importance of shutting down former Wallabies fullback Israel Folau and returning veteran Kurtley Beale as key factors in their dominance over Australia during his time in charge of Ireland.
“We had really good success against South Africa during the time that I was with Ireland, and the Wallabies. I think we probably won five out of seven against the Wallabies,” Schmidt told The Breakdown.
“They were a team where you could suffocate them a little bit, and as long as you could win the battle in the air against Israel Folau and try to contain the likes of Kurtley Beale, then you could get your own game going.
“We had a fantastic series there and some great games in Dublin. It was really looking with a really broad lens around the world at who you’re playing, and it was really exciting.”
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