A break in New Zealand has been a bit of a busman’s holiday for Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt.
After overseeing Ireland’s series win in Argentina, Schmidt visited family and surveyed the international under-20′s tournament, some Super rugby and the national First XV competition.
He flew out last night and is due at his desk on Monday from where he will reveal an assistant to replace John Plumtree as Ireland plan for the start of their next test series in November.
The All Blacks are not on that list this year but their work and ideas are never far from Schmidt’s probing mind as he looks towards next year’s World Cup.
“If you play the best teams you make advances yourself, and that is always the benefit of playing someone like the All Blacks,” he said.
“I think we got them at the right time last year when they were coming to the last game of the year and were a little vulnerable.
“They were tapering, probably had a foot on the plane and we were up for it.”
The All Blacks escaped with a 24-22 win and continued an unbeaten run in which they will shoot for a world record when they play the Wallabies in Sydney on August 16.
They have a depth of players which Schmidt envies and wants to have at home. A few Ireland players helped their chances on the latest tour, and a look at the resources in New Zealand reconfirmed the talent pool here.
Ireland play the Springboks and Wallabies in November, and Schmidt tried to watch some of the Super 15 sides play as well as attending to family and friends’ needs.
He also saw England’s efforts to beat the All Blacks, and although he thinks England are “the coming team” he felt they would have lost again if they’d had another test.
Schmidt’s immediate focus is on picking an extended squad who will go into camp for several days in August and September to prepare for their initial series in November.
“Around that we will be going to plenty of provincial games and keeping track of how our players are going and what trends other nations are taking,” he said.
He was new to the balance needed for players to have time out between campaigns and wanted Ireland’s squad to have about a month break in the middle of next year.
“I don’t think you can keep them up right through and try to get through a World Cup. We have four games leading into that tournament and that will give us time hopefully to re-establish some rhythm rather than blunt the team.
“Short-term we are all about playing the Springboks first up and while it may look a long way away, it will not be long before we are into our World Cup pool matches. Our job is to try and get as much right between now and then.”
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Rugby: Coach"s holiday - watching rugby