Rugby World Cup: Ireland's Keith Earls emphatically dismisses ex-coach Joe Schmidt as All Blacks' secret weapon for quarter-final

Joe Schmidt's influence on the upcoming Rugby World Cup quarter-final between the All Blacks and Ireland has been categorically dismissed by one of his former charges.

As head coach, Schmidt completely transformed Ireland as a rugby nation, and in many ways laid the foundations for the side now favourites to lift the World Cup for the first time.

From 2013 to 2019, in 77 tests Schmidt won 55, to go with 21 losses and one solitary draw. One of those wins came against the All Blacks in 2016 - Ireland's historic maiden win over New Zealand.

Now, though, Schmidt's expertise lies with his homeland.

Joe Schmidt with Ireland (2019).
Joe Schmidt with Ireland (2019). Photo credit: Getty Images

Since joining the All Blacks as an assistant to coach Ian Foster midway through last year, Schmidt's presence as attack coach has been a large catalyst for an upward trajectory in the team's fortunes.

With his past and current sides to meet in Paris on Sunday (NZ time), Schmidt's place in the All Blacks will take on more importance this week.

Ireland have established themselves as the team to beat at this World Cup, qualifying top of Pool B, and defeated reigning champions South Africa – who will now face hosts France in their own quarter-final as a result.

Under coach Andy Farrell, Ireland have won their last 17 consecutive tests. Victory in the quarter-final would take Ireland's tally to a record-equalling 18 - alongside both the All Blacks and England who currently hold the record.

Coincidentally, Ireland's last defeat came against the All Blacks in June 2022, when Schmidt took the reins as Foster and his assistants contracted COVID-19 in the week of the series' opening test.

But while his last match against his former side was a tick in the win column, Ireland winger Keith Earls says Schmidt's knowledge of Ireland counts for nothing this time around.  

"I don't think Joe would know anything about this squad," said Earls. "We're a completely different squad.

"He probably knows things about individuals, but I think we've all changed our habits under this coaching staff.

Ian Foster and Joe Schmidt.
Ian Foster and Joe Schmidt. Photo credit: Getty Images

"We genuinely don't use any of the habits that Joe has taught us. He might have a thing on a couple of individuals.

"But we're certainly not the same team that played under Joe."

Regardless of Earls' thoughts, Foster makes no bones of Schmidt's importance to the All Blacks' efforts.

And as expected, Schmidt will have a huge say in how the All Blacks prepare for their biggest game in four years.  

"His mindset is very much about what we do well, and making sure we nail that," said Foster.  

"He's brought a lot of focus on our game and making sure we get our game right, he knows the Irish well clearly, but that's information we've been tapping into the last 12 months.

"Getting his nous and how we refine how we play, that's really our number one mindset to be honest."

As one of the more senior members of the Ireland side, 36-year-old Earls has no shortage of experience playing against the All Blacks.

With over a century of test appearances, Earls has been through Ireland's era of struggle against New Zealand, and is now part of a squad that's won three of the last four tests between the two sides.

That included a historic first series win on Kiwi soil in 2022, seen as the benchmark for any touring side in Aotearoa. 

But while Ireland may hold recent bragging rights, Earls asserts the team can't read anything into what's gone before.  

"It was huge," Earls continued. "We drew massive confidence from that.

"But this tournament is a different animal. We have beaten New Zealand a few times in the last couple of years, but they've taught us one or two lessons as well in between that, and beaten us by more than one score.

"We're under no illusion what's coming at the weekend. All we can do is look after our own preparation, look after this week.

"The past doesn't mean anything, the future doesn't mean anything. All we have is this week's training, and I have no doubt a massively competitive game on Saturday."

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