Sat. Feb 29th, 2020

“I weighed 70 kilos and my rivals, 100”

Joe Schmidt was small. I remember looking at him and laughing at him. I said:: Look, boy: you won’t pass my court. ’

Mark Donaldson,
former rugby coach in New Zealand


It was 1988. Mark Donaldson He led the Manawatu team. We are in New Zealand, rugby land.

Joe Schmidt (54) He was 23 years old, the illusion of the youngster. It was wing. I had high hopes in rugby. Maybe, professionalize.

It was rather small, little thing. Mark Donaldson looked at the boy and said:

– If you want to play in a second club, your physique is enough. But on my team …

Do you know what the boy did?

He locked himself in the gym – and nobody went to the gym at that time – and gained twelve kilos of muscle. He spent the summer there, between bars and dumbbells.

And when he came back …

He slapped me in the face. Joe Schmidt had not only gained muscle mass, but had done so without losing his speed or his skills for the game. He said: “You’ve taken me to the limit, and this is my answer.” That’s why he is a great coach. He knows how to make the best of each of his players, ”said Donaldson.

Now, Joe Schmidt attends The vanguard. He does it in a room of the CAR of Sant Cugat: directs the Classic All Blacks (New Zealand team made up of players outside the country), a group that will face Spain in the Wanda Metropolitano, on May 29.

Everyone in my city played rugby; my father too: at home we saw black and white rugby. It seemed exciting to me. ”

I ask:

– As a rugby player, did you finally get to something?

Joe Schmidt, among the players of the Spanish rugby team, in the CAR of Sant Cugat

Joe Schmidt, among the players of the Spanish rugby team, in the CAR of Sant Cugat
(Thorny Peanut)


He takes a bite of the sandwich: he has traveled from afar, at dawn. He could not have breakfast.

He looks at his arms.

He feels his chest.

– Nor do you believe. In the end, that work was excessive. He had to build a body too big. In the end, It weighed 70 kilos. And many of my rivals, more than 100.

– So you didn’t professionalize?

– I never dreamed of doing it. Rugby was amateur until 1996. By then, I had broken the Achilles tendon twice.

And I was retired.


By then, in 1996, Joe Schmidt was an English teacher. He had a degree in Business. And he was already focusing on leading young New Zealand school talents.

Joe Schmidt tells us all this in
Ordinary Joe
, his biography.

He says he comes from Te Aroha, a tiny New Zealand town (1,400 inhabitants) that he left later, when he went to the big city (Woodville, 1,600). He was one among eight brothers. He says they saw rugby at home, the Six Nations, the local leagues …

Qualitative leap

A year before becoming an Irish coach, the Greens lost 60-0 to New Zealand; with Schmidt in office, they avenged defeat

Everyone in my city played rugby. My father too. At home, we saw black and white rugby. It seemed exciting. I understood that it was important in my community.

He read games, read books. He tells me that he read other sports and other coaches. He declares himself an admirer of Guardiola, Klopp and Wenger. He enlarged all the teams he led.

Willie Macken, wing in the Irish Mullingar who led Schmidt in the 1990s, said:

– Suddenly, we transform. Before, we ran with a ball. Now, we were already playing with a ball.

Joe Schmidt became a legend.

In 2013, he assumed the position of Ireland coach. A year earlier, the team had lost 60-0 to the All Blacks.

In November, Ireland won by 19-0 to New Zealanders and only relented in extra time (22-24). In 2014, Ireland won the Six Nations. He also did it in 2015 and 2018. That last year, he was declared the best coach in the world.

I tell him and he smiles:

– We won the All Blacks!


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