SCOTLAND boss Vern Cotter has admitted he is wary of protege and close friend Joe Schmidt catching him cold in the RBS 6 Nations.
Cotter’s arrival as Scotland head coach swells the number of ex-patriot Kiwi bosses to three in this year’s Six Nations shake-up, alongside Schmidt and Wales’ Warren Gatland.
The former Clermont boss brought Ireland coach Schmidt through his backroom staff at the French Top 14 club, the pair forging a firm friendship in the Massif Central.
However close their relationship though, Cotter admitted the ruthless streak in both will always lend itself to a level of scheming brewing beneath the pleasantries.
“He’s much better than me!” Cotter joked of Ireland head coach Schmidt.
“This is what’s good about the games: we have a very solid friendship based on good and bad times we’ve had together.
“We like to have a beer and talk about what our families are doing, but then I know he’s preparing his team to give us a tough time and obviously he knows I’m doing the same thing.
“So it’s done with utmost respect but within that there’s a very competitive nature.
“It’s nice to catch up with him, and then I know Gatland as well so it’s good to see him too, and it’s something unique we have in rugby.
“I’m not surprised at all to see Joe do so well with Ireland: he’s a smart man and he’s done very well.
“He’s brought that team together and got some great results so all credit to him.”
Scotland do not face Ireland until the final round of this year’s Six Nations, by which time Cotter could have fired a World Cup warning shot across Europe - or Schmidt could have the Irish gunning to retain their title.
Schmidt assisted Cotter at Clermont between 2007 and 2010 before building a Heineken Cup-winning dynasty at Leinster.
Ireland boss Schmidt is now famed for his taskmaster management style, pushing his players to the limit in mentally unrelenting training sessions.
The former Leinster and Bay of Plenty coach believes his approach can pale into insignificance next to Cotter’s frosty demeanour, however.
“I wouldn’t want to physically lock horns with him. He’s a big, strong man and I think his nickname in France was ‘les yeux de glace’, the eyes of ice,” said Schmidt of Cotter.
“He didn’t even have to say anything and he’d strike a bit of fear, and that was just with the coaching staff, let alone the players.
“It’s great to see him, we’ve had a bit of banter but I know we’re both always thinking and striving for an edge.”
Schmidt said he had few doubts Cotter could make the Test grade when the pair worked in tandem in France.
“I certainly thought that whatever he chose to do he’d probably end up doing,” said Schmidt.
“He’s got the acuity to do it, he’s got the drive to do it and the presence to lead people, and those are some key elements and the strengths he brings to his coaching.”
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