Joe Schmidt is "one of the best coaches in the Test arena" and could lead the Lions in 2017, according to Will Greenwood — who has backed Ireland to win the World Cup.
The former England centre revealed he has put money on Ireland claiming World Cup glory this year, tipping Schmidt’s men to safeguard his stake on England.
The 2003 World Cup winner expects England and Ireland to square off in the last four of this year’s global battle, with the winner too close to call.
“I started putting money on Ireland for the World Cup at 25/1 about eight months ago,” Greenwood said. “I’m backing Ireland to win their group, and optimistically backing England to win theirs, so that those two would meet in the semi-final. So if you back them both, you’ve got a pretty nice price on one of them in the final. That’s partly my thinking, but also I believe Ireland have a great chance. Schmidt is a very shrewd man, you can see with some of the moves he created that armed his Leinster side when they were winning big tournaments, big trophies, big matches.”
Ireland have suffered just three defeats in 13 Tests under Schmidt, rising to third in the world rankings and claiming the 2014 Six Nations.
Greenwood believes Schmidt’s side could go on to mirror the kind of build-up England enjoyed before lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy in 2003.
“What Schmidt has done in the last year or so, it’s the kind of record Clive (Woodward) used to put together with England in the years leading up to 2003,” said Greenwood. “You start building that sort of track record you have to be earmarked as one of the best coaches in the Test arena. There’s no doubt with what he’s done he’d have to be absolutely marked out as having the respect of all the other international coaches. And I’m pretty sure right now most international sides, if you ask them who has a chance of winning the World Cup, most players would probably throw Ireland into a hat of three or four.”
Former Clermont coach Schmidt could build a case to succeed All Blacks boss Steve Hansen following the 2017 Lions tour, even more so if he leads the Lions in his homeland. Greenwood conceded the Lions board will already be weighing up whether to keep faith with Gatland or eye a switch to Schmidt in two years’ time.
“Warren did an amazing job and won a series in Australia,” said Greenwood, speaking on behalf of Land Rover, a World Cup 2015 partner. “You tend to get your name as a Lions man if you can deliver success. Warren nearly won in South Africa, he did win in Australia and it’s New Zealand next. So you would say Warren is still very much in the mix. But if there’s a shortlist, then Joe Schmidt must be on it. The Lions committee will certainly have him earmarked, and a lot of course will depend on how the next two years go.”
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