18 Dec 2018

Rugby: Irish skipper touts Schmidt as Lions coach

6:52 am on 18 December 2018

The Ireland rugby captain Rory Best insists New Zealander Joe Schmidt could yet lead the British and Irish Lions to success in 2021.

Best has backed the Ireland coach to guide the Lions to a Test series victory in South Africa should he seek out the challenge.

Schmidt, 53, announced in November that he plans to finish coaching after the 2019 World Cup to focus on his family.

"The Lions is one of the few things he hasn't done," said Best.

"He hasn't been given the opportunity to be successful there."

Schmidt refused to rule out a return to coaching after taking a break and could well command a New Zealand coaching post if he does come back into the game.

Joe Schmidt.

Joe Schmidt. Photo: Photosport

However, Best feels his Ireland boss would be ideally suited to leading the next set of Lions tourists.

"I have no doubt that he would be successful given that opportunity," the Ulster hooker continued.

"There's no doubt with the way he performs and the way he goes about his business that he could take the Lions and be successful with them."

Former Leinster boss Schmidt, who will be replaced at Ireland by his current defence coach Andy Farrell, has guided the Irish side from eighth to second in the world during five years at the helm.

That spell has included three Six Nations titles, one Grand Slam and two victories over the All Blacks.

There have been suggestions that his detailed coaching methodology would not lend itself to the Lions itinerary, but two-time Lions tourist Best disagrees.

"I think Joe could very, very comfortably walk into a Lions role and get a team prepared to win a Test series in South Africa," he continued.

"Right from the word go he's expecting things from you. Very quickly the penny would drop, and everyone would enjoy being there."

While acknowledging Schmidt would be a loss to rugby should he retire from coaching for good after the World Cup, the Ireland skipper hailed his desire to repay his family for supporting his rugby ambitions.

"Joe's family have sacrificed a lot to allow him to be the best coach in the world," said Best.

"Sometimes you get a chance to give a bit back to your family, and Joe now sees a chance to thank them by repaying that support."