Rugby World Cup: Assistant coach Joe Schmidt could be All Blacks' secret weapon if quarter-final against Ireland eventuates

If an All Blacks v Ireland Rugby World Cup quarterfinal does eventuate, the man with the potential to have the biggest say might not be one on the field.

For the past year, former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has quietly cemented himself in the All Blacks' ranks after answering an SOS following New Zealand's series defeat to Ireland.  

As the man who largely transformed Irish rugby from pretenders to contenders, Schmidt is uniquely positioned for if his current and former sides meet.

In 77 tests as Ireland head coach, Schmidt won 55 of them, to go with 21 losses and one solitary draw.

Aaron Smith and Joe Schmidt.
Aaron Smith and Joe Schmidt. Photo credit: Getty Images

As head coach, Schmidt won the Six Nations three times, the Grand Slam once and historically led the Irish to a first victory over the All Blacks in 2016, and again in 2018.

And while the Irish have improved leaps and bounds to be world No.1 at this year's World Cup in France under incumbent coach Andy Farrell, the groundwork laid by Schmidt has not gone unnoticed.

But if the New Zealand and Ireland are to meet in the last eight, recent history will largely count against the All Blacks.

Since the 2019 World Cup, where the All Blacks defeated Ireland 46-14 in the quarterfinals, Ian Foster's side have played Ireland four times - losing three and winning one.

That solitary win came in July 2022, where coincidentally or otherwise Schmidt took charge of the All Blacks for the training week while Foster battled COVID-19.

Since then, Schmidt has been an assistant to Foster, following the sackings of Brad Mooar and John Plumtree after Ireland came back from 0-1 down to win a maiden series on New Zealand soil.

And with Schmidt as attack coach - as well as Jason Ryan - assisting Foster, the All Blacks have won 12 of 15 tests played.

If the All Blacks and Ireland are to meet in the quarter-final, Schmidt's inside knowledge of Ireland, coupled with the pressure of the favourites tag on Farrell's side could play right into Kiwi hands in Paris.

For the team themselves, Schmidt's influence is almost tangible in helping the All Blacks rediscover their winning touch after a difficult two-year period.

"Joe's put in a lot of work for us," said winger Mark Telea. "Our backs, our forwards, he always helps us a lot.

"All those little details that other teams or players miss, he's massive. I always say Joe knows more than other coaches.

Joe Schmidt.
Joe Schmidt. Photo credit: Getty Images

"When he talks about information, he knows a lot of information. If you have a conversation with him, he'll probably know your name more than you.

"He's a buzzy man to get around. He could probably ref the game if he wanted to."

Ireland's victory over South Africa last weekend has put them on a collision course with the All Blacks.

Odds-on to finish top of Pool B, Ireland will meet the runners up of Pool A.

And while injury to talismanic French captain Antoine Dupont could throw a spanner in the works for the hosts, it's unlikely Les Bleus will drop their final Pool match against Italy on October 7.

The All Blacks themselves can't look too far ahead, and won't, as they also need to beat Italy this weekend if they're any chance of reaching the quarterfinals.

Meanwhile, loose forward Dalton Papali'i takes the assessment of Schmidt even further, asserting he is among the greatest of all time (GOAT).

Papali'i has worked with Schmidt for both club and country, with the influence on the Blues in 2021 to support Leon MacDonald coinciding with the Auckland outfit lifting the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman trophy.

"He's the GOAT, one of the GOATs in the coaching world," added Papali'i. "He has a lot of knowledge of the game.

"For me and Mark, when he came into [the Blues] last year, he was a real difference maker.

"He did wonders for us. Coming to this environment, he's added his flavour and all the boys can feel it.

"He's awesome."

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