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Dublin: 4 °C Wednesday 21 November, 2018
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'No matter what Joe does, he has changed Irish rugby' - Rory Best

The Ireland head coach is due to confirm his decision before the end of this month.

IRELAND CAPTAIN RORY Best says head coach Joe Schmidt will leave a lasting legacy in Irish rugby if he departs after next year’s World Cup.

Schmidt is set to confirm his decision on whether to extend his contract with the IRFU before the end of this November Test series, with the union hopeful the 53-year-old will stay in Ireland.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt at Ireland's captain's run in Dublin today. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Best has been captain under Schmidt since the 2016 Six Nations, leading the team to a Grand Slam, a series success in Australia and their first-ever win over the All Blacks in the last two years. 

The Ulsterman is hoping Schmidt continues as Ireland boss after the 2019 World Cup, but will respect whatever decision the Kiwi makes.

In paying credit to what Schmidt has done for Irish rugby, Best pointed out that the Ireland boss has inspired the next generation of coaches too.

“What Joe has done for Irish rugby, not just the national team but Leinster, is evident and plain to see in the silverware,” said Best. “It speaks for itself.

“No matter what Joe does, he has changed Irish rugby, how we perceive performance and our preparation. His legacy will obviously be silverware and what Leinster have now become and what Ireland are pushing towards becoming and have achieved.

“It will also be about the coaches that he eventually brings through in years to come. We maybe see a bit of it now with Paulie [O'Connell] over in Stade [Français] but you will probably start to see that more when guys who have had five, six, seven, 10 years involved with him starting to retire and take up that side of the game. That will probably be the lasting legacy.

“From a player’s point of view, and even from an Irish rugby fan’s point of view, you want to see the best coaches staying where they are at and he is the best coach I have ever had. He is one of the best coaches in the world.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt turns on the pace at the Aviva Stadium. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“That’s who you want in charge of the national team. He has to do what is right for him and if that’s a change then his legacy will go on longer than just the silverware that sits in the trophy cabinets.”

If Schmidt does opt to leave, current assistant coaches Andy Farrell and Simon Easterby are likely to be among the favourites to succeed him.

The IRFU have often spoken about their system providing the successor to Schmidt and Best believes Farrell or Easterby would be well-qualified.

“When you look at our coaching staff there is that option, massively,” said Best. “Those guys take a lot, Simon and Faz took a lot of the preparation last week and you saw what happened there.

“Simon has obviously been a head coach at Scarlets. Faz has coached at Saracens who aren’t bad. He has coached with England and he has been a massive part of our success here. So there is plenty of options and plenty of good young coaches around.

“That’s the next big step, not just for Ireland but for the provinces, to bring through Irish coaches and not have an over-reliance on foreign coaches because there are plenty there. We’ve just got to bring them through the pathways and let them flourish.”

Best and Schmidt will hope to continue their success as captain and coach of Ireland over the coming November Tests, next year’s Six Nations and on into the World Cup in Japan.

Rory Best Best continues as Ireland captain this season. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Having led Ireland for more than two years now, Best said there wasn’t even a chat with Schmidt around him continuing as captain ahead of this season – even after he missed the tour of Australia in June.

“We didn’t really have that much of a conversation,” said Best. “There was a squad named…

“We always said that if there was a conversation to have then we would have it but not being in Australia we didn’t get that chance like we normally do after a campaign.

“I chat to him fairly regularly and it was never really mentioned. It was all about planning for this season.”

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Murray Kinsella

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