Schmidt to decide on his future with Ireland after South Africa tour

The Ireland head coach must make a call on whether to extend his contract until 2019.

JOE SCHMIDT SAYS he will decide on his future with Ireland following June’s three-Test tour of South Africa.

The Ireland head coach’s current deal with the IRFU expires on 30 June 2017, though the union hopes the Kiwi will lead the national team through into the 2019 World Cup.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt remains undecided on whether he will remain with Ireland until 2019. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

With Schmidt currently focused on tomorrow’s final round Six Nations clash with Scotland and then preparing for this summer’s tour of South Africa, he said yesterday that he would make a decision on his future after those Tests in June.

Schmidt stressed again that family reasons will be a major part of the decision he makes. His son Luke suffers from epilepsy and the family have travelled to Australia a number of times to see specialists for treatment.

“It is something that I’ve committed to making a decision on once we get back from Africa really,” said Schmidt yesterday when asked if he will lead Ireland into the 2019 World Cup.

“It’s really important that there is a clear pathway for players to know that there’s some continuity there. Or if that continuity is going to be with someone else, that there’s a span of enough time that they can get the game up and running as they see it best being played.

“I am conscious of my responsibility there. There’s some factors outside of rugby that tend to dictate for me [and] we’ll be a little bit further down the track with some of those decisions as well.

“You couldn’t get a better group of young men to work with [than this Ireland squad] and not-so-young men who are still sprightly in how they move about, and the mix has changed a bit this year.”

Joe Schmidt with Ireland fan Jennifer Malone before training Schmidt with Ireland fan Jennifer Malone. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ireland’s players are hopeful that Schmidt will agree to extend his IRFU contract until the 2019 World Cup in Japan, with out-half Johnny Sexton stressing that the squad fully believes in their head coach’s methods.

“All we know is that he’s here for next year,” said Sexton. “We had big goals this year, we were trying to go three [Six Nations titles] in a row.

“We’ve still got big goals, trying to create history. We’re got three chances to do that in South Africa and two against New Zealand [in the 2016 November Tests]. Then, we have another crack at the Six Nations next year.

“There is still plenty of rugby to be played with Joe in charge. I hope he’s here for at least the next World Cup, that’s what everyone in the squad would hope. We feel that we’re building something towards that.

“Fingers crossed, he will be here. There are circumstances that he probably has to consider. I wouldn’t like to speak for him, I’m sure he’ll answer it himself.”

Given that there are those factors outside rugby at play in Schmidt’s decision, there is a distinct possibility that the New Zealander is in his final IRFU contract and will depart in 2017.

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Joe Schmidt Schmidt has been in charge of Ireland since 2013. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ireland’s players may hope that is not the case and that Schmidt will extend his deal into 2019, but loosehead prop Jack McGrath underlined that if their head coach does move on, then the squad will need to move on quickly.

“I think Irish rugby, even Leinster and Ireland, owe a lot to him,” said McGrath. “So it would be tough to see him go, but then again you have to change things around sometimes.

“You can’t have the same coach forever and it’s just one of those things – sport can be cruel like that. You have a good thing going and it goes away from you, but again it can be good to freshen things up as well.”

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Murray Kinsella

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