Ireland have got one of the greatest coaches in the world in Joe Schmidt, says Steve Hansen
Record-breaking New Zealand boss Steve Hansen has hailed Ireland's Joe Schmidt as one of the world's best coaches.
All Blacks head coach Hansen praised his fellow Kiwi Schmidt in the wake of Ireland's 40-29 victory over New Zealand at Chicago's Soldier Field on Saturday.
Ireland ended their 111-year wait for a victory over New Zealand in the US, cutting short the back-to-back World champions' record winning streak at 18 matches.
Hansen also admitted the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) had worked hard to prise Schmidt away from Ireland and back into their Super Rugby coaching set-up.
"He's probably one of the best coaches around," said Hansen of Ireland boss Schmidt.
"He's meticulous in his work ethic, a good analyst of the game and that's why Ireland want to keep him and why New Zealand wanted to bring him home."
Schmidt only signed his new Ireland contract two weeks ago, committing his future to the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) until after the 2019 World Cup.
The 51-year-old had seriously considered taking a coaching job with either the Highlanders or the Chiefs, but eventually opted to remain in Dublin.
Family concerns and the desire to lead Ireland past the quarter-finals of a World Cup for the first time tipped the balance in the end however.
Schmidt has already assured his place in Irish folklore courtesy of Saturday's victory, whatever happens next, but New Zealand coach Hansen expects his countryman to continue to guide Ireland on an upward curve.
Hansen believes Schmidt can rightly be viewed among the sport's shrewdest minds, after adding the maiden All Blacks scalp to Ireland's first win over the Springboks on South African soil in June.
"It's good for Joe, and Joe's a really good man, I've got a lot of time for him as all our coaching staff has; he's a top bloke," said Hansen of Schmidt.
"He's working hard and trying to do something with Ireland and he's having some success.
"They're having a great year, they've knocked over South Africa and they've knocked us over. So he'll be feeling pretty pleased with himself and so he should.
"He's done a good job with them and the rest of his crew are supporting him.
"So I don't think there's any big significance.
"Some people will get excited about it I suppose but it doesn't make any difference to us who it is.
"You don't like losing at the best of times but in saying that you have to accept it.
"Thankfully we get another opportunity in a couple of weeks' time and we will see if we are good enough then." For Schmidt, this was an extra special victory but he is already thinking about the next battle against the All Blacks and how tough it will be.
While hailing the tributes to Anthony Foley, Schmidt also admitted Ireland must quickly refocus - with New Zealand coming to Dublin on November 19.
"I really thought the players did themselves proud, but to be fair they did Axel proud and his family, and they did their country proud," said Schmidt.
"I actually said something inadvertently during the week like 'If you win here I don't really care too much about what you do for the rest of the series'. So I've really put my foot in it there!
"There's an alcohol ban for the players on the flight home, but that will probably be lifted as soon as the boys sit down."
Ireland flanker CJ Stander certainly expects a severe backlash from the back-to-back World champions, who were forced to surrender their 18-match winning streak in the USA. "We spoke in the week that going up against the best means you have to give your best," said Stander. "It was an unbelievable performance from all the boys and it's a big confidence boost, but we're playing them again in two weeks' time so they're going to come back with everything they have.
"We're going to have to pick up the stuff we left on the pitch, there's a few mistakes we made at the end there, but there's also plenty of good that we've got to build on too."
Stander admitted that he was dedicating this win and his performance to his former Munster coach Foley.
An emotionally charged occasion never to be forgotten.