Schmidt success no surprise to Scotland rugby coach Cotter

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London (AFP) - Scotland coach Vern Cotter has said the success of his one-time protege Joe Schmidt was no surprise to him.

Cotter is now preparing for his first Six Nations Championship and his presence means that 50 percent of the head coaches involved are from New Zealand, with Schmidt in charge of defending champions Ireland and Warren Gatland at the helm with Wales.

Cotter's time at Clermont also saw Schmidt on the backroom staff of the French Top 14 club.

Schmidt, 49, sealed his coaching reputation with Leinster, guiding the Irish province to back-to-back European Cup triumphs.

He took over as Ireland coach two years ago and the side have since won an impressive 10 out of 13 Tests under Schmidt, with one of those defeats a last-gasp loss to New Zealand in November 2013 when they were on the verge of beating the All Blacks for the first time in their history.

"He's much better than me!" Cotter, 53, jokingly said of Schmidt at the 2015 Six Nations launch in London on Wednesday.

"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."

- Great results -

Cotter added: "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," said the Scotland boss, whose side don't play Ireland until the final day of the Six Nations at Murrayfield on March 21.

Scotland produced several encouraging performances during the November internationals, beating Argentina and Tonga before only losing narrowly to New Zealand, albeit the world champions were not at full strength.

Schmidt, who worked under Cotter at Clermont from 2007-2010, has a reputation for being a tough coach, but he insisted he had nothing on his old boss.

"I wouldn't want to physically lock horns with him," said Schmidt, looking to guide to back-to-back titles for the first time since 1949.

"He's a big, strong man and I think his nickname in France was 'les yeux de glace', the eyes of ice.

"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."

Ireland head into the Six Nations as favourites, with Schmidt's side now third in the world rankings behind New Zealand and South Africa, who they beat 29-15 in Dublin in November.

"You just try and get better at what you are doing, the peripheral things that occur... rankings, or tag of favourites I don't think either of those are going to tangibly add value to performances," said Schmidt.