Best hoping Schmidt’s leadership style will inspire generation of Irish coaches

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Ireland’s flock is all out of offerings to lay at the altar of Joe Schmidt.

A new mural deifying Ireland’s most successful coach in history brightens Phibsborough Road’s Back Page pub in Dublin.

The Irish congregation’s latest tribute carries more than a little space-age hue, Schmidt’s visage embellished in cosmic coral.

The Kiwi boss’ out-of-this-world Test record has converted all Ireland into disciples of the way of Schmidt; the 53-year-old landing three Six Nations titles, one Grand Slam and the nation’s first two victories over back-to-back world champions New Zealand.

Quite how the tangible heralding of Schmidt can top that Dublin daubing is anyone’s guess, but captain and stalwart hooker Rory Best insists the former schoolteacher’s legacy must boil down to far more than just the writing on that wall.

‘In Joe we trust’ reads that Back Page artwork.

Whatever happens in Japan, Ulsterman Best wants Schmidt’s leadership style to inspire a generation of home-grown coaches.

“The mural doesn’t surprise me in the slightest,” Best told the PA news agency.

“Joe’s legacy is obviously the trophies he’s won with Leinster and Ireland.

“I know it’s a big driver for him not to fail in his own perception. And I think he felt the last World Cup was an opportunity to create history.

“That’s what he’s managed to piece together a lot, little pieces of history right along the way.

“And I’d say that was probably a driving force for him to stay for this World Cup, to try to add to that jigsaw.

“That’s the immediate legacy, but I do also think that it will keep going for years to come.”

Best continued: “With his coaching style, he’s changed the way a lot of the provinces now coach.

“They now have the kinds of preparation he brought in here. He brought it to Leinster, and they were really successful.

“And it was only when he came into the Ireland team that all the other provinces went, ‘Right, this is what we’ve got to start doing’.

“So you’re going to get coaches that have played under him that are going to bring that into their new roles.

“There’s going to be really good players that have been brought along under him that will keep that going.

“Ultimately, the dream should be that when you have somebody that good that you start to create your own pathway for native coaches to come through. And that’s where we need to get to.”

Schmidt’s approach has revolutionised rugby on Irish shores, but the former Bay of Plenty coach will return to his native New Zealand after the World Cup.

Former England coach Andy Farrell will take the helm, with another ex-Red Rose staffer Mike Catt stepping into the set-up.

Give it time, though, says Best, and those that Schmidt has coached will pick up the mantle themselves.

If Banbridge farmer’s son Best is correct, Schmidt could become Irish rugby’s answer to Brian Clough.

Scores of Clough’s Nottingham Forest players progressed to fine coaching careers of their own. And Best sees a similar permeating influence in Ireland’s taskmaster leader.

“I think it’s important we don’t jump straight there and throw someone in,” said Best, Ireland’s evergreen 37-year-old World Cup captain.

“Even with Leo Cullen at Leinster, Leinster threw him in as a young head coach but they also gave him the support of the experience of Stuart Lancaster, who obviously didn’t want the limelight as a boss.

“So I think it’s important that it’s baby steps with that, but I think it’s important that that’s got to be the IRFU’s long-term plan, to get that in place.

“And I think that will be a lot of Joe’s legacy.

“In four or five years it may not be put down to him. But people that have worked with him will walk into places where, say, a Johnny Sexton is coaching, and you’ll see a lot of similarities with what Joe did.

“And that’s a testament to just what a good coach he is.”

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