Even Brian O’Driscoll was subjected to Joe Schmidt’s cutting criticism when the New Zealander first took over as Leinster head coach, according to Luke Fitzgerald.
Leinster experienced great success under Schmidt during his three years in charge of the province, winning two Heineken Cups, one European Challenge Cup title and one Pro12 title.
The New Zealander was relatively unknown when he took the reins at Leinster, having been Clermont Auvergne’s assistant coach for three years prior to his arrival in Ireland.
However, the Kiwi soon let Leinster’s players know he was not to be messed with, as Fitzgerald discussed on the Irish Independent‘s The Left Wing podcast.
“About four or five games in, somebody threw [O’Driscoll] an absolute daisy-cutter of a pass,” Fitzgerald said.
“He dropped it. It was a slippy day and it was a really hard one to take. We were all kind of finding our feet around Joe, he was running really good training sessions. He was really firm on things.
“Brian had talked about a few things in the meeting and then Joe pulls up this clip of him dropping a pass. He just, to the group, flippantly says, ‘Drico, good players take those’.
“He just turned back to the footage but the whole room, there was a collective gasp. Who is this guy? It was a great way to set out his stall. I don’t think it was pre-planned because Drico was like ‘Jesus, that hasn’t happened to me in ten years!’
“It became a bit of a saying for guys – ‘good players take those’.”
‘There has been so much great stuff’
Despite the criticism, O’Driscoll and Schmidt had a successful relationship as player and coach for both Leinster and Ireland.
The Ireland legend has spoken extremely highly of Schmidt in the past, thanking the New Zealand coach on RTE’s the Late Late Show for what he brought to the country after the disappointing exit from the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
— The Late Late Show (@RTELateLateShow) November 22, 2019
“We all want to get to that elusive semi-final and we will get there at some point. But let’s not lose sight of what went on before that – beating the All Blacks for the first time,” O’Driscoll said.
“We waited 61 years for a Grand Slam in 2009. We only had to wait another nine or 10 thanks to that group of players and Joe. There has been so much great stuff.”