AS ONE OF Joe Schmidt’s most trusted and reliable lieutenants, Rob Kearney has enjoyed some of his most memorable days under the head coach’s watch for both Leinster and Ireland.
And knowing Schmidt as he does, Kearney says the 53-year-old will do everything within his power over the next 11 months to ensure Ireland are in a position to continue their success once he departs the role.
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Kearney with Schmidt back in 2012. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Schmidt today announced his decision to leave Irish rugby after eight years here following the conclusion of next year’s World Cup, bringing the curtain down on a hugely successful tenure with Leinster and then the national team.
The IRFU have already confirmed Schmidt will be succeeded by his current defence coach Andy Farrell, and Kearney is confident the Kiwi’s legacy will extend beyond his time in charge.
“We’ve got some superb coaches in Ireland, genuinely really good coaches, and I think one of the great things about Joe is that he will want to leave this Irish team in a better place than he found it,” the Leinster fullback said, speaking at last night’s World Rugby awards in Monaco.
“So he will want to ensure he leaves with systems in place to go and succeed, and continue to compete with the very best. The IRFU have great contingency plans in place, and Joe will have helped a great deal with that.
“What Joe has done for Irish rugby has been incredible. One Grand Slam, two more Six Nations championships, he’s brought Ireland to the highest-ever world ranking, beaten New Zealand twice — the stats really do speak for themselves.”
Schmidt was deservedly named Coach of the Year last night, while Ireland’s stellar season was recognised with the Team of the Year accolade after a Grand Slam title, first series win Down Under since 1979 and a first-ever home win over the All Blacks.
During his five years in charge, Schmidt has guided Ireland from eighth to second in the world rankings, installing the national team as one of the favourites heading into next year’s World Cup in Japan.
Kearney and Jamie Heaslip in Monaco last night. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
“In sport you hear a lot about belief, but I think deep down in the back of your mind there’s always this little voice that’s chatting away to you if you haven’t achieved something,” Kearney added.
“We’d been saying for the best part of 10 years that as an Ireland team we could beat the All Blacks, but until you actually achieve it, you never 100% believe it.
“So to do it in Chicago was fantastic, and to do it again this month was brilliant. But the margins between number one and number seven in the world is so fine.
“South Africa are going well but Wales beat them, Fiji went and beat France and England were very unlucky not to beat New Zealand.”
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