Six Nations 2015: Vern Cotter not surprised by Joe Schmidt’s success

Scotland head coach praises his former Clermont colleague before setting aside friendships for his first championship campaign

Vern Cotter admits he is not surprised to see Joe Schmidt doing so well as Ireland head coach.

The 53-year-old Kiwi is preparing for his first outing in the championship that will see him come up against familiar faces as he looks to continue his good start to life in charge of Scotland.

[Joe is] 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.

Vern Cotter

The early signs indicate that Scotland are finally turning a corner since the departure of Andy Robinson in 2012, winning five of Cotter’s seven games in charge of the Dark Blues since he joined from Top 14 club Clermont Auvergne last summer.

Since leaving Clermont in 2010, Schmidt has enjoyed a successful spell as head coach of Leinster before taking the reins as Ireland head coach and winning the Six Nations in his second year in charge.

Ireland have also pushed New Zealand very close and enjoyed wins over Australia and South Africa during their rise to third in the World Rugby rankings under Schmidt’s leadership.

Asked about the possibility of coming up against a team coached by Schmidt, there was a hint of Cotter’s notorious glacial walls melting as he talked about his former assistant in France.

“He’s much better than me – he’ll clean us up,” Cotter said.

“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 had some very great results and it’s credit to him; he’s done very well.”

Scotland host Ireland at BT Murrayfield in the final round of the championship, by which point Schmidt will be hoping to have a chance of securing back-to-back titles for the Emerald Isle for the first time since 1949.

Unfancied by the bookmakers, despite several pundits tipping them to do well, the Dark Blues could find themselves playing for pride in front of a 67,000 strong crowd in Edinburgh, but there will also be the small matter of bragging rights for their Kiwi head coaches, whose friendship will be set aside for an afternoon.

Cotter fully expects his protege to make it a difficult afternoon, but admits he’ll be scheming as well as he looks to give Scotland the perfect boost ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

“This is what’s good about the games,” he added.

“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 the games are carried out with the utmost respect, but with a very competitive nature to them.

“It’s nice to catch up with everybody – Gatland, we all know each other – and it’s something unique we have in rugby.”

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