Ian Foster’s survival as All Blacks head coach wasn’t just down to his team’s recent triumph over the Springboks in Johannesburg but also about former Ireland boss Joe Schmidt’s rapid rise in New Zealand rugby.
That was the word from former Fiji international Isa Nacewa, who played under Schmidt during his stint as Leinster’s head coach from 2010 to 2013.
When New Zealand Rugby (NZR) announced that Foster would continue his reign as All Blacks head coach through until next year’s Rugby World Cup in France, they also revealed that Schmidt would join the three-time world champions’ coaching panel as their new attack coach – a promotion from his previous role as analyst and selector.
And Nacewa believes adding former Ireland boss Schmidt to the All Blacks’ backroom staff was a coup from the governing body.
“I know how much impact Joe Schmidt will have now that he’s physically on the field, it will be immense,” he told Newstalk ZB.
“I’ve seen it first hand as a player and I’m seeing it again from a distance.”
Nacewa, who also had stints with the Blues and Auckland, was part of the Leinster side that won 77 games from 99 matches under Schmidt’s guidance, which included two Heineken Cup titles and a successful PRO12 campaign.
He believes Schmidt’s new coaching role was a vital factor in giving the NZR board the confidence to retain Foster’s services.
“The win in South Africa played a part in Fozzie being reinstated; but to me the masterstroke was the appointment of Joe Schmidt,” he said.
“I am a big Joe Schmidt fan. This is a coach that knows what he wants, knows how to lift players to the level and will take the responsibility on his shoulders to get them there.
“He won’t say ‘hey, I haven’t got the players’, he’ll go ‘these players are good enough, give them to me, I’ll make a difference’ and that is the masterstroke in what Fozzie has done; I believe that will get the All Blacks to a new level.”
Nacewa said Schmidt’s promotion has not only given him more belief in the All Blacks’ coaching staff but also boosts his faith in their players.
“Prior to all these changes I would have questioned whether they had the players to win the next World Cup – I still think there’s a lot of development in the players that is needed – but when you’ve got someone like Joe Schmidt, hands-on, on the training field making a difference, that’s a real wild card,” he added.