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Opinion: IRFU show Schmidt who's boss before big announcement

The Leinster coach has now set three deadlines but he is being made to wait.

IT SEEMED THE most obvious question to ask but it was saved as the final query before Joe Schmidt took his leave from the microphones and television cameras. TheScore.ie asked, “Any news from the IRFU; have you heard any more from them?”

Schmidt responded, “No. I think that they are trying to get stuff done pretty soon. Whoever [the next Ireland coach] is going to be, I’m not sure who else they are talking to. We have had a couple of chats but nothing definitive.

“I hope that, one way or the other, there will be something definitive by early next week.”

Joe Schmidt has led Leinster to Heineken Cups in 2011 and 2012. (©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

The Leinster coach wants the Ireland job but has set his stall out and left the union with the assurances that he is seeking before he steps away from the club he has coached for three seasons. Schmidt wants the matter dealt with swiftly so he can focus on the task at hand – leading Leinster to a Pro12 and Challenge Cup double. Since TheScore.ie first revealed that the IRFU had contacted him about replacing Declan Kidney, the Kiwi has set three deadlines for the union to tell him if he is their man. Two have passed already.

Speaking on the Late Late Show on 19 April, Schmidt told Ryan Tubridy that he expected a decision on the job, which Ewen McKenzie and Les Kiss have also interviewed for, by 25 or 26 April. On Tuesday, Brian O’Driscoll, at a Leinster training session this week, publicly backed his provincial coach for the big job. No word came from the union by the time the New Zealander faced the press at a Leinster press briefing on 25 April. He told TheScore.ie:

I know it will be soon because I’m under pressure here at Leinster as well. I think that once there’s clarity, everyone can move forward and I’m pretty keen to do that.”

Several national newspapers reported that Schmidt was expected to be confirmed as Ireland head coach on Saturday, following Leinster’s semi-final against Biarritz. The latest speculation, from the Sunday newspaper duo of Brendan Fanning and Peter O’Reilly, states that white smoke shall rise from the union’s Lansdowne Road enclave on Monday. Tellingly, however, Schmidt told Newstalk, following his side’s 44-16 win over Biarritz, that he hoped for an answer in the next ‘two, three or four days’.

One suspects that Schmidt has been told he is first choice and all that remains is the back and forth over payment, job requirements and bugbears on both sides. As Schmidt said recently, “To be honest they know me pretty well and I know them pretty well. We probably know each other too well and neither of us are sure about it.”

However, Schmidt has tried to place a timeline on the process and has found that the IRFU is not budging. Public opinion may be hugely behind the New Zealander’s appointment but the union is showing that they will not be dictated to. When contacted this afternoon, an IRFU spokesperson had no update. We were told that the ‘process is on-going’.

The wait may be over by this time tomorrow but, if the process remains ongoing by Wednesday, one can imagine that Schmidt would rather re-commit to Leinster for 2013/14 than set a fourth deadline.

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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