There will undoubtedly be a sadness amid the inevitably for Ireland supporters following the news that Joe Schmidt will depart his role as head coach after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
It was hardly a surprise when the story broke that the New Zealander’s stint will end at six and a half years after the tournament in Japan given Schmidt himself had indicated as much following Saturday’s hammering of the United States.
Just as good things come to those who wait, all good things must come an end, and under Schmidt Ireland’s achievements have been among the best in their history.
With that in mind, we have picked out five of the best moments under Schmidt’s stewardship.
HISTORIC FIRST WIN OVER SPRINGBOKS ON SOUTH AFRICAN SOIL
Ireland had never celebrated victory against the Springboks on South African soil until a stoic display in June 2016 when, despite having CJ Stander sent off in the 23rd minute, Schmidt’s men earned a historic 26-20 victory in Cape Town. Ireland went on to lose the series 2-1, but it remains a win that ranks high among their greatest achievements.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) 11 June 2016
ALL BLACKS BEATEN AFTER 111-YEAR WAIT
In a period spanning 111 years and 28 attempts, Ireland had tried and failed to beat the fearsome All Blacks. But all that changed on a fateful day in Chicago in November 2016 as, at the 29th attempt, Ireland put one over New Zealand in a 40-29 triumph at Soldier Field. Jordi Murphy, Stander, Conor Murray and Simon Zebo all scored tries in the famous triumph that ended New Zealand’s record run of victories for a top-tiered nation at 18. Two years later, Ireland defeated the All Blacks for the first time on home soil.
ENGLAND’S SLAM HOPES DASHED IN DUBLIN
Just four months later and an England side revitalised under Eddie Jones had equalled the All Blacks’ run of 18 wins and were seeking a second consecutive Six Nations Grand Slam under the Australian. But Schmidt and his side gutted out a 13-9 win in Dublin with a textbook display of physicality to destroy England’s dreams.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) 18 March 2017
BEATING ALL COMERS AT THE SIX NATIONS
A year later and Irish eyes were smiling on St Patrick’s Day against England again, only this time the venue was Twickenham. Jones’ men were aiming for revenge by denying Ireland the Grand Slam, but in a thrilling encounter it was the visitors that took the glory in a 24-15 triumph – tries from Garry Ringrose, Stander and Jacob Stockdale opening up a 21-5 first-half lead that would never be relinquished.
A SERIES WIN DOWN UNDER AFTER 39 YEARS
It had been 39 years since Ireland had last won a series in Australia but, as has been the case so often under Schmidt, history counted for little as Ireland ran out 20-16 victors for a first series win in Australia since 1979. It was sweet revenge for a side that had seen their best-ever run of 12 straight wins ended by the Wallabies in the opening game.
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