McCaw says Schmidt would face stiff competition for NZ job

All Blacks legend insists there’s no shortage of capable contenders on the home front

At the end of this month Joe Schmidt will make up his mind about his future after Tokyo 2019. He will be clear-minded about his options. Schmidt 53, has been at the Ireland helm since succeeding Declan Kidney in the summer of 2013.

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen will be doing the same after two terms and eight years in charge of the All Blacks. Even US presidents pack their bags after that.

But Schimdt, according to former New Zealand openside flanker Richie McCaw, will face stiff competition if he prizes the top job, one normally open to those who cut their coaching stripes in Super Rugby.

McCaw does not see Schmidt’s time spent in France and Ireland as disbarring him from the role. But stepping into Hansen’s position, should the two decide to move on, would be far from a shoo-in despite the high esteem in which the Irish coach is held.

“I think the NZRU has been great in the last few years as being pretty pragmatic around wanting what’s best for the job,” says McCaw.

“If you have the best coach available who wants to come back and he’s motivated to coach the All Blacks and he’s the right man for the job, well then you would have to weigh all those things up.”

But McCaw also points to other coaches closer to home, one of whom Irish players will be very familiar with. In 2013 Jon Plumtree was confirmed as forwards coach for the Ireland team, working alongside a coach who was, at the time, new to the Irish job, Joe Schmidt.

“There’s a few names that could pop up,” says McCaw. “You’ve got Scott Robertson, who is reasonably new to Super Rugby but he’s back to back Crusaders champion and will be another year down the track with Crusaders. He’s obviously doing a pretty good job.

“Then you’ve got a guy like Jamie Joseph, who is coaching the Japanese at the moment. But he was coaching the Highlanders for a number of years; I don’t know if he’s even interested given where he is at the moment. And you’ve got a guy called John Plumtree who has coached a lot of Super Rugby in South Africa and is back coaching the Hurricanes.

Good guys

“So there are some quite good guys floating around in New Zealand, and I think it’s great for New Zealand rugby that you’ve got a lot of guys who you could put there and say they can do quite a good job. And they want to find the best.”

Despite the distance and time away the world has shrunk and Schmidt’s reputation carries to New Zealand. With back-to-back Six Nations titles in his first two campaigns and a third Grand Slam in Irish history last March, his watch has seen the rise and rise of Irish rugby.

A Schmidt-tailored team also beat New Zealand for the first time, won a first Test series in Australia since 1979 and beat the Springboks on South African soil, in effect truly globalising Irish success. Still, 12 years away from home. Could next week be construed as a job interview?

“I think that they want the best that they can get,” says McCaw before adding a caveat. “So I don’t see that [12 years away] being a stopper at all. But I think it won’t be just a given either.

“They would be silly not to look at people, a Joe Schmidt or a Vern Cotter [Montpellier]), those sort of guys that haven’t been coaching in New Zealand but are the right men for the job.”