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Dublin: 17 °C Saturday 24 August, 2019
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'If a top job comes up then I'd imagine he'll be near the top of the list'

Saracens scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth reckons Mark McCall could be in the mix for the Ireland job.

AS 2019 APPROACHES, so too does the end of Joe Schmidt’s current contract.

It may be that Johnny Sexton and many others get their wish and the Ireland head coach extends into 2020 and beyond, but the IRFU will already be planning for their next step unless Schmidt has given some indication that he will continue.

In the light of future possibilities, Sunday afternoon at the Aviva Stadium is certainly relevant.

Mark McCall arrives for the game Mark McCall has enjoyed major success with Saracens. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Irishman Mark McCall has enjoyed serious success in charge of Saracens and despite his relatively low profile on these shores, must be considered as a potential future Ireland boss.

Saracens face Leinster this weekend in the Champions Cup quarter-finals, with the Irish province’s players having raved about the influence of Stuart Lancaster since his arrival as senior coach in 2016.

Ireland assistant coach Andy Farrell will also be in the mix if Schmidt does depart, but McCall and Lancaster could be two compelling candidates to succeed the Kiwi.

Saracens scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth worked under Lancaster during his tenure as England head coach and says he is happy to see the 48-year-old thriving with Leinster.

“Anyone who worked under him with England is pleased that he’s been given an opportunity to show what can do,” says Wigglesworth.

“All the noises coming out of Leinster are that he’s doing a fantastic job.

“Hopefully, it doesn’t go too well for him on Sunday, but it is pleasing for anyone who has worked with him to see him back in the top level.”

Lancaster’s coaching approach is different to McCall’s and the contrast of styles in Dublin on Sunday could be riveting.

Stuart Lancaster Lancaster and Leo Cullen go up against Saracens this weekend. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Former Ulster head coach McCall has guided Saracens to the last two Champions Cups and Wigglesworth believes he will be in the mix if the Ireland position becomes available after the 2019 World Cup.

“Absolutely, any coach who has had sustained success has obviously gotten a lot more right than wrong,” says Wigglesworth.

“With that comes a lot of experience. He’s been through everything now, he’s been through putting a team together, he’s been through building it all from the beginning. He’s been through losing finals, winning, all of the challenges that come with it.

“I’m sure when you’ve been through all of that sort of stuff, if a top job comes up then I’d imagine he’ll be near the top of the list.”

While Saracens have wobbled at times this season and required a heavy win over Northampton to advance as eighth seeds into these Champions Cup quarter-finals, McCall’s message to the players never wavered.

Wigglesworth explains that the former Ireland international always maintained his confidence in the playing squad.

“He believes in what we do and when you have got someone who believes in what you do and how you can do it and doesn’t waver from that belief, so you never you never get a sense from him that he is thinking of changing and doing things differently.

“There are always little tweaks in there but generally he has belief in the organisation that he is running, trusts his coaches and his players to get on with it and that sort of steadfast belief that we have got things right more often than not and if the little things keep improving in there.

Richard Wigglesworth Wigglesworth is a key man for Saracens. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“There is a real level of detail and application to what we do and he keeps us on the track we have been on.”

While Saracens could potentially have to deal with losing their head coach post-2019, the focus in the short-term is on derailing Leinster’s bid to advance into the semi-finals of the Champions Cup.

“You can’t really analyse them and think they have too many weaknesses if I’m being honest,” says Wigglesworth of Leo Cullen and Lancaster’s side.

“They’re very strong up front, they are dangerous out wide, they’ve got a strong kicking game, their defence is very good.

“So we know that two quality teams are going up against each other and it’s about winning small battles as well as big ones. So I’m anticipating a tight contest and a full-throttle one.”

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Murray Kinsella

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