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IRFU want to keep Schmidt until 2019 but have back-up plan in place

The likes of Pat Lam and Andy Farrell would be among the favourites to succeed Schmidt.

THE IRFU WANT to retain Joe Schmidt as Ireland head coach through until the 2019 World Cup but have a back-up plan in place if the 50-year-old decides to leave next year.

Schmidt’s current contract expires on 30 June 2017.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt has yet to make a decision on his future with Ireland. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Family circumstances are the priority for Schmidt and may require him to move on from Ireland, having been on these shores since taking over at Leinster in 2010.

Schmidt has previously said that he will make a decision after the upcoming tour of South Africa and indicated yesterday that he is “definitely” getting closer to making that call.

If Schmidt is to move on next summer, IRFU performance director David Nucifora – who would be tasked with appointing his successor – is confident that there is enough “coaching intellect” in Ireland to provide a number of options.

Pat Lam’s reputation has soared with Connacht’s march to the Guinness Pro12 title, while Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss is a highly-respected figure.

New Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell would also be a strong contender, while incoming Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus brings a fine pedigree.

“We are gradually building a fairly strong group of coaches in the country and we’d have a number of alternatives to look at if we had to move it forward,” said Nucifora yesterday.

Pat Lam and John Muldoon Lam has brought trophy success to Connacht. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Other than Les Kiss moving into Ulster we’ve managed to sign all of our national coaches on to longer-term contracts post the World Cup, we’ve brought Andy Farrell into the mix and you’re aware of all the other coaches we’ve got around the country.

“I feel we have a strong talent pool of coaches that we’re building and that puts us in a good position.

“Do we want Joe to stay? Absolutely, we’d like him to stay and commit right through until 2019.

He’s got an unusual set of circumstances that we’ve spoken about before and we’re just happy and confident to work with him on those and he’ll do the right thing and let us know as soon as he’s got a clear indication in his own head.”

Nucifora stressed that Schmidt is under no obligation to inform the IRFU of a decision on whether to extend his contract this summer, stating that he has scope to wait until closer to the 2017 Six Nations if he needs to do so.

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Taking charge of the 2017 Lions tour remains a possibility for Schmidt too, although Nucifora stated that even if the Kiwi was to take up the role of head coach for that visit to his native New Zealand, it would not affect Ireland’s desire to retain him.

If Schmidt extends his Ireland contract and takes on the Lions job, Nucifora indicated that a member of his current backroom staff – most likely Farrell – would step into the Ireland head coaching position during Schmidt’s leave of absence.

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley filled Warren Gatland’s shoes as national team head coach when Gatland stepped away to concentrate on the 2013 Lions tour, and Nucifora would envisage the same thing happening with Ireland.

Joe Schmidt and Andy Farrell Andy Farrell adds experience to Ireland's coaching staff. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Essentially, the understanding here is that there is a gentleman’s agreement in place whereby Schmidt being allowed the time off by the IRFU to take on the Lions job would be reciprocated by him agreeing to extend his contract.

If Joe decides to take on the Lions job, he will already have made his decision that he’s staying through until 2019, that will automatically be in place,” said Nucifora.

“If he decides that he doesn’t want to do the Lions and he needs to leave, then we’ve obviously got to be looking for a successor.

“If he does take the job, if he does get offered the Lions job, we’ll come up with a short-term solution for the period he wouldn’t be eligible to coach out of the people that are involved already.”

- This article was updated at 8.03am to correct the year Joe Schmidt arrived in Ireland. 

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