By Orla Bannon
Richie McCaw believes New Zealand would be “silly” not to do everything in their power to try and bring Joe Schmidt home after next year’s World Cup.
Such is the esteem in which Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning head coach is held in his native country, his inexperience in Super Rugby having lived overseas since 2007 should not be deterrents, according to the All Blacks legend.
“He’s been away for a while but there’s no doubt amongst the people who understand rugby that he has a very good way of looking at the game,” said McCaw.
“He’s quite innovative and looks at ways of pushing everyone to get better.
“I think he’s probably quite an intense character but that drives a standard of excellence and that’s the view a lot of people have.
“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 obviously quite a few years successfully at club level as well.”
McCaw is the only player to captain his country to two World Cup wins, in 2011 and 2015. The latter was under current coach Steve Hansen, who has not declared whether he wants to stay on beyond next year’s tournament.
“From Ireland’s point of view, you want to try and lock him (Schmidt) in and from New Zealand’s point of view, if Steve doesn’t continue, they’re going to want all the options on the table,” said the legendary openside flanker.
“It will be hard for Joe because he wants to concentrate on doing a good job for the next 12 months but if he wants to put his name in the hat it will be pretty good to have a coach like that looking around.
“We’re pretty lucky that there are guys coaching Super Rugby at the moment that will put their name in the hat but they would be silly not to look at a Joe Schmidt or a Vern Cotter, guys that haven’t been coaching in New Zealand but are the right man for the job.”
Schmidt is to make a decision on his future, beyond Ireland’s 2019 World Cup campaign, at the end of this month’s autumn series — the highlight of which will be the visit of the world champions to Dublin on November 17.
New Zealand responded to their first ever loss to Ireland in Chicago two years ago with a ferocious performance at the Aviva Stadium a few weeks later, which remains a good indicator of what Ireland can expect tomorrow week.
McCaw watched the game in Soldier Field with the All Blacks’ 1987 World Cup-winning captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Fitzpatrick later revealing they’d looked at each other and said ‘that wouldn’t have happened if we’d been playing’.
When reminded of it yesterday, McCaw laughed at their good-natured arrogance.
“It was disappointing to lose as it always is but there was a lot of respect for the Irish and how they went about it.
“I always go back to the 2013 game and the game in Wellington, they went to the wire, and there were a few times when the result was hanging in the balance.
“It was probably selfish of me and Sean to say that, thinking we would have kept the record intact, but it was inevitable it would end some day.”
Elephants might have long memories but nothing, it seems, compares to a defeated All Black.
Rather than moving on long ago from Chicago to bigger and better things, McCaw predicts the players “still have it in the back of the mind”.
“The best thing about it is that you know from first-hand experience that you’re facing a team that can knock you over if you don’t get it right.” First up for New Zealand is England at Twickenham tomorrow, before they make the short trip over the Irish Sea.
Even for this star-studded group, they are two daunting challenges. “I guess a lot of them will be looking to get through this first week and get that right. But come Sunday they’ll be realising they’ve got to do it all over again.”