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Schmidt must be given total charge

By Tyrone Howe

As soon as Joe Schmidt threw his hat in the ring for the Ireland job, there was no need for headhunters or Keith Wood on the interview panel. The job was his.

The only thing left was to maintain transparency within the process to keep HR happy.

As I wrote several weeks ago he is the outstanding candidate in terms of his track record over the last few years, his knowledge of Irish players and the system, and the fact that his teams play a terrific style of imaginative and penetrative attacking rugby, while not diminishing their desire for offensive defence.

Like Declan Kidney, he seems to be a thoroughly decent man, but one who knows his mind and will want to get things done according to that mind.

This is the crux of the matter.

Schmidt needs empowerment – to be able to structure his coaching team as he wants and run things as he sees fit. This sounds obvious, but in practice it may sit uncomfortably amongst the IRFU blazers.

It will be interesting to see how his appointment impacts on players.

Schmidt will, of course, be scrutinised in terms of any tendency towards Leinster bias. With Declan Kidney the Munster link was strong and why should we expect anything different from Schmidt?

In selection, if in doubt, who do you go for? The players you know and trust not to let you down.

Yet, it will be interesting to see how he manages the development of the emerging young players – the battle between Ian Madigan and Paddy Jackson for the No.10 shirt, in particular, should prove intriguing.

Schmidt's task is a tough one with the changeover of personnel from the 'golden generation' almost at an end.

I am sure that he will get down on bended knee to get the respective greats Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell to stay around for another year.

He seems to have the ability to re-energise and re-invigorate and I suspect they may well be tempted. Whether they are around or not, consistency of performance will be the key measurement.

Belfast Telegraph


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