Rory Best believes Joe Schmidt’s true coaching acumen lies in his man management.
Exacting Ireland boss Schmidt has long been revered as a tactical genius, devising one-off special moves to unpick individual defensive weak points.
But now Ireland captain Best has revealed Schmidt’s ultimate Midas touch as the ability to confound his players’ expectations, to keep them sharp.
Evergreen hooker Best will play his final Guinness Six Nations match in Saturday afternoon’s Wales clash in Cardiff, but that will also prove head coach Schmidt’s tournament farewell.
“There are many shades of Joe; he’ll judge the week depending on what he feels we need,” said Best.
“Sometimes coming off the back of a good performance he’s incredibly hard at you in the early part of the week.
“Sometimes coming off the back of a good performance he can be praise you quite a bit. He mixes it up.
“He’s incredibly good at gauging the mood of the group, and how we’re going, and what we need to really concentrate on to make sure that we can improve, keep getting better and ultimately win a game tomorrow.
“That’s the skill of the man. There are all the plays, the way we go about bits and pieces of our game.
“But the last little bit that’s a bit more unseen is just the way he manages people and the way he manages the group as a whole.”