Rob Kearney: Joe Schmidt’s done a huge amount for me

It was clearly said in jest, but it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine a few political parties’ antennae quivering at Rob Kearney’s assessment of the current Ireland coach.

Sport and politics are hardly unfamiliar bedfellows and in the vote-getting competition there could perhaps be no better platform for a campaign manager to build on than a candidate on a hot streak and a reputation for scrupulous detail.

“It’s no secret how good he is as a coach,” Kearney said of Joe Schmidt.

“If he ran for presidency at the moment, he’d probably be there or thereabouts. He’s a superb coach. I’ve been lucky enough to work with him with Leinster and then to go straight into Ireland with him.

“He’s done a huge amount for my game and developed me as a player. If you sat in on one of our Monday morning meetings with Joe, you’d see a list of 20 things that I would need to improve on.”

Everything Schmidt touches returns almost instant reward.

Two Heineken Cups followed in the immediate seasons after his appointment at Leinster and Ireland, on a run of 10 successive wins, will retain the Six Nations title if they win their final two away games.

It would be an unprecedented level of success for a coach of Irish sides.

But if there is a sense of immortality building around this squad in a World Cup year in which if current form continues its upward trajectory there is a tantalisingly negotiable route to the final, for Kearney and a number of players of his generation, the reality beyond the career must be planned for.

The Ireland full-back is involved in business ventures outside his professional playing career, most recently opening The Bridge 1859 pub in Dublin with his brother Dave, Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien.

He will be 29 later this month and after studying for seven years obtained an MBA which he says is his proudest achievement.

And after his recent Twitter spat with George Hook there may even be the intriguing prospect of Kearney elbowing the veteran pundit off the RTÉ couch in the future.

“Life after rugby, it’s daunting to me,” he revealed in an interview with the Irish Tatler this week.

“It’s not something I think about a huge amount because I don’t have any of the answers. What I do want to ensure, though, is that when the time does come, be it through retirement or injury, or just old age, that I’ve enough things and enough paths that I can explore to be able to do something.

“An MBA is something that I’ve done completely on my own and while being a professional rugby player. If ever some opportunities to do some TV punditry or work in sport in some capacity arise, that’s probably the thing that I’d enjoy most.

“I’ve been exposed to rugby my whole life, it’s all I know. And if at the age of 32, 33, 34 when I do retire, if I suddenly have to make a decision when that’s me finished as a rugby player, I think I could find that really difficult.”

Interestingly, though, and in the context of the influence Schmidt has had on his career, Kearney admitted he doesn’t see coaching as part of his long-term future.

“I don’t think I’d be particularly good at it, first and foremost, and I think I’d struggle to be on the field training every day and going to games but not being able to get out there.

“But again, I’ve no idea right now and time will tell. But right now, if I was to put my house on whether I’d be a rugby coach, I’d say no.”

As for the World Cup, he insists it’s nowhere near the forefront of his thinking.

He said: “I have to ensure people that I genuinely am telling the truth when I say I haven’t once thought about (it). The only thing I think about is the next game. It’s obviously at the back of your mind, and every player hopes to be there and represent their own country.

“If the trend continues to go the way it is now, well then we’ll be a pretty good strong, consistent team come September.”


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