As far as Schmidt is concerned, the tense 22-20 victory over France in Paris which clinched the title is only the start of a new era.
"They've very much earned the right to be champions," said the 48-year-old Kiwi (right). "I don't think they ever sat back and just said 'Look, we've got a talented group, we're capable'. They said 'We've got to work hard and get our noses over the line'."
Listing the qualities that had turned the side which finished second-bottom 12 months ago into title winners, Schmidt cited: "Work ethic, unity.
"I think they're just a great group of rugby players who have worked really hard and I thought we saw some trust in each other that has developed with the group that's been there."
Ulster's Chris Henry, who had an outstanding series after being handed the potentially thankless job of taking over from injured British and Irish Lion Sean O'Brien, was upbeat of what lies ahead.
"When we have been really clinical, when we know what we're about and execute the way Joe wants us to do it, we are a dangerous side," the big flanker said.
"So I can't see why we can't move forward. We have to move forward – it would be a shame not to."
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