When Gordon D'Arcy brought a coffee to a Joe Schmidt walk-through
"Did he have a pair of slippers on as well?"
One of the big changes brought in by Joe Schmidt, when he took over as Ireland head coach, was ramping up the intensity as game-day approached. A large part of that was the Friday night walk-through.
The New Zealander, who led Leinster and Ireland to seven major trophies in eight years, was detail driven and pushed his players hard to get the best out of them. "I became a much better player under Joe Schmidt," Andrew Trimble once recalled, "because he puts you under so much pressure."
The infamous '1, 2, 3, 4 drill' and the Schmidt walk-throughs - where players would run through set-plays and moves without the ball - were said to be so intense that the Test matches themselves were often seen to be light relief.
During his recent appearance House of Rugby Ireland episode [LISTEN from 57:30 below] former Leinster and Ireland prop Mike Ross recalled the time Gordon D'Arcy showed up for an early Schmidt walk-through with a coffee in hand.
Fergus McFadden and Ian Madigan, who both played with Ross, under Schmidt, for Leinster and Ireland started off with a funny recollection at the tighthead prop trying to sneak into a walk-through at St Stephen's Green park.
"I was looking over and was nudging Sean Cronin or it even could have been you," says McFadden, "going, 'Look at this. Look at this, Mads'. And it was you sneaking into Stephen’s Green for the walk-through. And you could see Mike was like… he was tip-toeing up, hiding behind a tree, tip-toeing and hiding behind another tree! You did try and sneak in. But the sweat beating off your forehead, I’ll never forget it."
"The fear," Ross remarked, "the fear!"
"It’s the fear that Joe could put into even grown men," Madigan continued.
"I remember when he was starting off at Leinster. We were playing Bath, away, and I remember, we didn’t really know the value of walk-throughs and how important Joe saw them. They were probably something that had been around for a few years as box-ticking exercises.
"Darce comes out, probably a minute or two early, and he made the mistake of bringing out a cup of coffee and you saw it…. Joe just let out this roar. The coffee went everywhere!"
The lads all recalled the inside centre also showing up in a pair of slippers. It was the takeaway coffee, though, that set Schmidt's blood boiling.
"It was very much Joe setting the tone of – I want everyone switching into these," Madigan said. "There were calculated messages that he sent out. It’s not like he was just a hot-head who just lost his temper. A lot of the time he’d be doing stuff, and there would be a reason behind it."
McFadden also shared a great tale about the time, when Schmidt was getting his Ireland team ready to face Australia, in November 2013:
"He was sucking and sucking, then went, "Ewww, what the f*** is that?!" @fergmcfadden on a prank conceived by @KearneyRob and himself that back-fired badly 😬 pic.twitter.com/O6eALmyyYR
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) April 24, 2021
As Rob Kearney recalled, on this week's show, Schmidt's reaction to McFadden was to jokingly say, "Well, that's the last time you ever play for Ireland."
He did, 11 more times, but there were just two more starts in the green jersey.