“He’s Rugby Obsessed. We Used To Have This Ongoing Running Game With [Joe Schmidt]”

Rugby obsessed.

We’ve all heard the stories about former Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and just how obsessed he is with rugby – but how far does that obsession go? Pretty far according to Jamie Heaslip who played under him with Ireland and Leinster.

Speaking on this week’s episode of the Up & Under Podcast, Heaslip discussed Schmidt’s new role with World Rugby with the New Zealander named their new Director of Rugby and High-Performance last week and revealed a game some of the Irish players used to play with him.

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With Schmidt so obsessed with the game of rugby the Irish lads used to try and see how long they could get him to go without talking abouut it and it turns out it was pretty difficult to stop Schmidt, who won three Six Nations titles with Ireland including a Grand Slam.

Heaslip said he would try and use horse racing due to Joe’s love of it, but it would only buy him so much time.

“He’s as mad as a bag of badgers – and I mean that in a nice way,” Heaslip joked.

“He’s rugby obsessed, rugby obsessed.

“We used to have this ongoing running game – how long could you get Joe not to talk about rugby.

“You’d meet him randomly, or you’d be in camp or training, he loves horses so that was the only thing I found you could kind of start talking about. Like I knew nothing about horses but you’d start talking about Cheltenham or something like that.

“But 5 minutes max, that was it. Then it came straight back into what you did at training, or what this team was doing or what the opposition was doing. He was always on, always on.

Schmidt has always been renowned for his incredible attention to detail in analysing both his players and his opposition but Heaslip added that it’s how he is able to present that information to players is what made him such a good coach.

The former Ireland head coach did the work for you and summarised what you had to do incredibly well. It was then on the player to know it.

“The skill that he does is he actually disseminates the information so that when you get it – it’s quite exact and quite concise,” Heaslip said.

So he has obviously done the work and looked at how he’s going to break down a team, and then he gives you the solution and goes ‘know that!’ and then it’s on you to know it.

“As in like the move or the set-play or your role and doing the basics right. That’s your responsibility. But he’ll distil it down to a paint by numbers scenario.”

That’s the skill of Joe and the skill of unlocking teams and spotting the opportunity. And playing to your team’s strengths. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with.

On the World Rugby role itself, Heaslip said there is no better man suited for the role, adding that he was “really excited” to see what Schmidt can bring to the table.

“I text him during the week [and said] ‘you absolute dark horse!’” Heaslip said on Schmidt getting the job.

“But look if there’s a guy who’s good at dealing with multiple things and is able to take on that workload it’s Joe.

“I’m actually really excited about it.

“And I’m really excited to see what he can do for the Tier two nations and the emerging markets by giving them access to what the other teams are getting

“And that whole high-performance area and how he is able to disseminate that kind of information to teams that might not necessarily have the infrastructure.

“There’s no better man for that type of job, that’s for sure.