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'We have to wait until Joe comes back': IRFU hoping Schmidt decides to stay in Ireland after summer at home

“I don’t think it’s a matter of finance. Joe is from New Zealand, he has family in New Zealand and he has to take all of those things in to consideration.”

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

IRFU CEO PHILIP Browne is among those patiently awaiting word from Joe Schmidt amid intensifying reports linking him with coaching roles in his native New Zealand.

The Ireland head coach’s current contract will expire in June 2017 and, after a brief dip, the double Six Nations-winner’s stock rose again this summer after presiding over Ireland’s first ever win on South African soil.

In recent weeks, Super Rugby sides the Highlanders and the Chiefs (based in Waikato, which borders Schmidt’s native province of Manawatu) have openly expressed an interest in the former Leinster boss.

Before the summer tour to South Africa, Schmidt said he would wait until closer to the start of the new season before making a decision on whether to take the IRFU up on the offer of a new contract. And Browne says the union are still in the dark about which way the Kiwi is leaning.

I can’t shed any light on it at all,” Browne said at the announcement of Sport Ireland’s investment in field sports yesterday.

“Joe knows exactly what our position is: we’d love him to stay. He is in New Zealand still, and until he gets back we won’t have any further idea. It’s a matter for Joe and what he wants.”

Asked whether the union could improve the offer on Schmidt’s table to encourage him to extend his seven-year stay on these shores, Browne said:

“I don’t think it’s a matter of finance. Joe is from New Zealand, he has family in New Zealand and he has to take all of those things into consideration. At the end of the day, we’ll have to wait until Joe comes back. We’ll have conversations, no doubt, and things will become a little more clear.”

Joe Schmidt Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Should Schmidt decide to leave Ireland next summer, Browne and performance director David Nucifora will have to set about finding a replacement for the ultra-successful 50-year-old. And the union’s CEO rejected the sense that Schmidt’s non-committal at this point was a concern with a number of talented coaches with ties to the IRFU or Ireland.

“I don’t think it’s a worry. We have a lot of good coaches in the system at the moment and there’s a number of very good coaches with an Irish background abroad. So we’re probably in a better place than we’ve ever been in terms of coaching talent.”

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