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Sexton, Best…Plath, Yeats: Rugby is poetry in motion for Schmidt

Mar 19 2018 | 03:45 pm

Dublin: Ireland’s Grand Slam winning coach Joe Schmidt has drawn on his former job as an English teacher to reveal that poetry is just as crucial to his team’s success as hours spent discussing tactics.

The 52-year-old New Zealander became only the third coach to guide the Irish to a Grand Slam when they eased to a clinical 24-15 victory over England at Twickenham on Saturday.

However, Schmidt, who is renowned for his attention to detail and passing it on to his players, surprised many when he revealed what his message was to the team before they went out for the match on a ground they had not won since 2010 — three years before he took over.

“I just said ‘get out and play lads’,” Schmidt told journalists.

Schmidt explained that, for him, playing rugby is like penning a poem.

It has a structure but it does not mean boundaries can’t be broken in order to get a result, he believes.

AFP/File / OLLY GREENWOODJoe Schmidt (L) became only the third coach to guide the Irish to a Grand Slam with the simple message “get out and play lads”

“People presume there is a lot of structure but I think some of the best poetry I have ever read goes beyond the bounds of standard grammar,” said Schmidt.

“But when you know the grammar really well you can utilise what you like to get the message across.

“Like when players have a structure they can go beyond that and play whatever they see in front of them.

“I just said ‘get out and play and enjoy this because these are the days you have worked so hard to hit’.”

Schmidt, who has guided the Irish to three title wins in five campaigns after coaching Leinster to back-to-back European Cups, warmed to the poetry theme.

He said he was spoilt for choice as to who was his favourite poet.

“It is a mix,” said Schmidt.

“There is Sam Hunt from New Zealand who is pretty rustic, I really enjoy him. there is Banjo Patterson from Australia, he is pretty good.”

Given his adopted country’s rich history in poets such as WB Yeats, Schmidt also threw some of them into the mix.

However, the pressures and tension of watching matches makes even Schmidt draw back from reading other poets he admires.

“I’d be pretty keen on even some of the dark stuff like (Sylvia) Plath but yeah I wouldn’t want it to get too glum,” said Schmidt.

“I have enough tough moments trying to watch games that are too tight without making it even tougher.”

Panipokhari

Kathmandu, Nepal

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