'He was like the pied piper' - the year Joe Schmidt spent in Mullingar

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The year was 1991, long before he led Ireland to three Six Nations championships, or New Zealand to this evening’s World Cup quarter-final

Ireland News, Ireland Headlines

It was just a sheet of paper and yet to the man reading it, it represented so much more.

“He was like the pied piper,” says Bob Marren, a former full-back, who migrated every now and then from the Seconds to the Firsts. “Joe changed everything. He was incredible.” “He never forgot a name,” says Pete Falkner, a stalwart of that side. “It’s a rare talent he has got. Like, that time in 1991, when he first walked into the dressing room, and was introduced to 30 new players, his instant recall was remarkable.”Schmidt was a teacher, brought up in a tiny New Zealand town, who had a thirst for travel.

“Joe was a great man to write letters. Fellas who were sort of slacking, they got letters saying you need to do x, y or z; basically to do more.” By 2005, the year Schmidt was on his way to become assistant coach at Clermont, he stopped off in Mullingar for a visit. Falkner met him in the Old Stand, a pub in town. “He had played with our Seconds down in Birr that day, which is not quite as glamorous a fixture as Ireland versus New Zealand in the Stade de France.

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