Rory Best has hailed Joe Schmidt as the best coach he has ever worked with ahead of the Kiwi's imminent decision on his Ireland future.
Schmidt, who named Best his captain in 2016, has led the national side since 2013, winning a Grand Slam, two further Six Nations titles and memorably beating the All Blacks for a first time.
Like Best himself, he may walk away after next year's World Cup, with a decision expected to come after the November series which continues with the visit of Argentina to Dublin today (6.30pm kick-off).
"In my opinion, he's one of the best coaches in the world. So that's who you want in charge of the national team," Best said after his captain's run yesterday. "From a player's point of view, and even from an Irish rugby fan's point of view, you want to see the best coaches staying and he's the best coach I've ever worked with.
"But he has got to do what's right for him, and if that is a change then his legacy will go on longer than just the silverware in trophy cabinets. What Joe has done for Irish rugby, not just for the national team but Leinster, is evident. It's plain to see in the silverware."
Best added: “No matter what Joe does, he has changed Irish rugby and how we perceive performance and preparation. His legacy will obviously be trophies, what Leinster have become and what Ireland are pushing towards becoming and have achieved. But it will also be about the coaches that he brings through in years to come.
“You maybe won’t see that yet, perhaps a little now with Paul (O’Connell) at Stade. But you’ll probably start to see that more and more, as guys have had five, six, 10 years involved with him, start to retire and start to take up that side of the game. That will probably be the lasting legacy.”
If Schmidt does choose to call it quits, Best believes there are options already on the coaching ticket that could step up.
“When you look at our coaching staff, there is that option (for internal promotion), massively,” said Best. “These guys, they take a lot. Simon (Easterby) and Faz (Andy Farrell) took a lot of the preparation last week, and you saw what happened there.
“Simon has obviously been a head coach at Scarlets, Faz has coached at Saracens, he’s coached at England and he’s been involved in a massive part of our success here.
“So there’s plenty of options and there’s plenty of good young coaches around. And I think that’s the next step not just for Ireland but for the provinces, to start to bring through Irish coaches and not have an over-reliance on foreign coaches. Because there are plenty there, we’ve just got to get pathways to let them through and really let them flourish.”
All Blacks legend Richie McCaw says New Zealand would dispense with a tradition of appointing from within if they could lure Schmidt from Ireland.
The Kiwi has worked overseas since 2007 and is inexperienced in Super Rugby.
“I think everybody sits there hoping one day he’ll come back and put himself back in the mix in New Zealand, and we get the benefit of all the experience he’s had at an international level and at club level as well,” said McCaw. “He’s been away for a while, but there’s no doubt among the people who understand rugby that he has a very good way of looking at the game.”