Schmidt full of respect for Gatland


Published: Friday 13th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Joe Schmidt cannot even entertain the notion of mastering one-time mentor Warren Gatland as Ireland bid to tiptoe to the brink of a Grand Slam in Wales on Saturday.

Former schoolteacher Schmidt submitted himself to Gatland’s tutelage on a fact-finding mission to the ultra-successful Wasps side of the mid-noughties, amid a European tour of coaching culture.

Then assistant coach at Auckland Blues, Schmidt’s thirst for knowledge inspired a jet-setting quest for self-improvement that also included a stint shadowing Graeme Souness at Newcastle United.

Schmidt schooled his former tutor Gatland in last year’s RBS 6 Nations, as Ireland completely deconstructed Wales’ famed Warrenball en route to comprehensive 26-3 triumph in Dublin.

Ireland can lay one hand back on the Six Nations trophy they swiped last year with victory at the Millennium Stadium this weekend – but Schmidt refuses to view the clash as a battle of coaching wits.

“To be honest, I don’t really entertain the thought too much,” Schmidt said when asked to outline Wales boss Gatland’s coaching style.

“I certainly have massive respect for what he’s achieved, h aving spent a bit of time with Gats when he was playing. I probably still remember him more from those days having played with and against him as young people.

“I don’t really know too much about him as a coach. I went and visited him many years ago when he coached a very successful Wasps team.

“I guess some of the players would know him better than I do. Eoin Reddan would know him very well and some of the lads who travelled with the Lions would know him very well.

“But in the windows we have to prepare I don’t try to second-guess what a coach might do with the team he’s got.

“It’s more what we feel we might need to do to put pressure on them and to relieve pressure from ourselves.”

Ireland remain in the hunt for their first Grand Slam since 2009, and victory in Cardiff would set a new national record of 11 consecutive Test wins.

Former Ireland boss Gatland guided Wasps to three straight Premiership titles, while also scooping the Heineken Cup and a European Challenge Cup crown.

Current Ireland head coach Schmidt attempted to downplay his Wasps internship ahead of locking horns with Gatland once more, but there is no escaping the two Test coaches’ history will heavily colour Saturday’s pivotal battle.

“I went over and looked at a few set-ups, I had a look at Stade Francais and caught up with a few more coaches, and I went into Newcastle United,” Schmidt said.

“It was a long time ago, Graeme Souness was the manager then and it was really just an opportunity to look at high-performance and high-achieving coaching environments.

“Obviously Gats was right up there with Heineken Cups and Premierships in that period.”

Published: Friday 13th March 2015 by The News Editor

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