Dan Tuohy has described former Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt as a “scary character” who stifled creativity.
Former Ireland lock Tuohy played under Schmidt a handful of times during his international career, and while he acknowledged the Kiwi’s success in rugby, he admitted that he did not enjoy the environment in his Irish squads.
Tuohy was speaking about Schmidt on The Telf Rugby Podcast and revealed that he and several other Ireland players did not enjoy the New Zealander’s abrasive coaching style.
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“He is a pretty scary character. I think we’ve seen a pretty seismic shift in the Ireland team recently and international teams in general,” Tuohy commented.
“I didn’t react well to being belittled or feeling scared. It wasn’t really a good thing for me. I didn’t enjoy that feeling. I know a lot of other players didn’t as well. Some people thrive on that. But he wasn’t a warm character.
“He wouldn’t be making you scared or making an environment where it’s quite edgy on the training pitch, but afterwards, he’d be quite personable, he’d be interested in you. It was like that non-stop.”
Dan Tuohy: ‘Joe Schmidt would always be watching you.’
Tuohy used his former Ireland and Ulster teammate Chris Henry as an example of the effect Schmidt would have on his players off the rugby pitch.
Henry was a favourite of Schmidt’s when he first took over head coach, as the Ulsterman played in all five games in Ireland’s successful 2014 Six Nations campaign, but even he felt extremely pressurised by the Kiwi.
“I’d use Chris Henry as an example. A lot of the time he was in shape but he didn’t look in shape. He was fit as anything, but he looked like a bag of shit,” Tuohy said.
“Chris would be at dinner and not sure if he could have ketchup with food. There was always this element of hiding things or having a dessert and Joe would always be watching you.
“One thing I will say is that he prepared his teams incredibly well. I’m sat here and I’ve not even achieved five percent of what Joe has achieved in rugby.”
Joe Schmidt’s low-risk game plan.
Schmidt is currently the most successful Ireland head coach in history, having won three Six Nations titles with the side as well as leading the country to their first ever win against the All Blacks.
However, Ireland adopted a conservative game plan under Schmidt, one which ultimately became predictable and easy to defend against during the New Zealander’s last year in charge.
While that low-risk style of play worked extremely well for Ireland at times under Schmidt, Tuohy believes that it stifled the creativity of many of his teammates.
“He prepared his teams to the nth degree incredibly well but I do believe he did stifle some creativity,” Tuohy said.
“I remember at one meeting he said ‘Do not offload, you haven’t got the skills to offload’. And this isn’t just me – it’s the whole squad [that Schmidt was talking to].
“’You can’t offload, unless it’s 100%, don’t bother doing it. Just get the ball back and we’ll keep the ball.’ So guys were just petrified to offload the ball. It felt like it just stifled creativity.
“It was such a weird thing for me because I lived and died by getting that email for Ireland selection, but when I got it, I’d almost go ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to go down to Joe for eight weeks. He’s going to torture me about something.’
“Before long he’d be on my back and I’d just be beaten down. I think he wanted to make me stronger, but in actual fact, I needed just a bit of space.”