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Dublin: 0°C Monday 1 March 2021

'It's massively important Joe stays' - POC hoping Schmidt signs

The former Ireland captain believes Schmidt can stay ahead of the game.

PAUL O’CONNELL SAYS it’s “massively important” that the IRFU ensure Joe Schmidt signs a new contract to remain on as Ireland head coach through to the 2019 World Cup.

Although Schmidt stated earlier this year that he would make a call on his future following the June tour of South Africa, there has still been no official confirmation of his decision.

Paul O'Connell and Joe Schmidt before the game O'Connell was Ireland captain under Schmidt. Source: ©INPHO

While the delay would seem to indicate that Schmidt is leaning towards staying in Ireland, the IRFU insist that no contracts have been signed.

Spokespeople for the union say they are not rushing Schmidt into making his decision, with the Kiwi having to consider his family both here in Ireland and at home in New Zealand.

Schmidt is understood to have bought a new house in Ireland recently, which would also suggest an intention to remain in his current job, but the IRFU state that their offer of an extension remains on the table, unsigned.

O’Connell, who captained Ireland to two Six Nations titles under Schmidt before announcing his retirement last season, is hoping that good news will be confirmed soon.

The legendary lock is in no doubt that the IRFU needs to secure Schmidt’s future.

“It’s massively important,” said O’Connell yesterday. “Without a doubt, he’s one of the best coaches in the world. I think he’s put together a brilliant coaching team, brilliant backroom staff, and Ireland seem to be getting better and better.

“I think we should have won the Test series down in South Africa, without a shadow of a doubt. [We've won] two out of three Six Nations championships, so I think it’s really important that he stays on, and I’m hoping he will.”

While some sporting organisations embrace change in new World Cup cycles, the IRFU are certain that Schmidt is the man to lead Ireland to Japan.

O’Connell is also of the belief that the 50-year-old is the kind of coach who will ensure Ireland’s training and tactical approaches remain fresh.

“Some coaches, they hit a purple patch where they’re at the top of the game for two or three years, and then it seems to fade or whatever, but I think Joe will always evolve ahead of the game,” said O’Connell.

Paul O'Connell and Joe Schmidt O'Connell and Schmidt had an excellent working relationship. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I think he can be that guy. If he stays on until Japan, probably right up to that World Cup, if he does stay, I think that he’ll still be ahead of the game and it’ll still be exciting for the players to go in every day. That’s how I found it.

“No meeting or no training session was boring. Every day you learned something, even though you were probably doing all of the same stuff that you had done for ten years, but you were just doing it in a way that was so far ahead of anything you had done before.”

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Chief among Schmidt’s short-term plans are the two clashes with New Zealand in November, first in Chicago and then in Dublin two weekends later.

O’Connell was involved in the heartbreaking defeat to the Kiwis at the start of Schmidt’s tenure in 2013 and the regrets remains.

The 36-year-old feels New Zealand will pose an even greater challenge this year, but says exposure to the best in the world can only be good for Ireland.

“If we had got that done in 2013, it would have been an amazing achievement. It’s a pity we didn’t actually finish it off.

“They’re in an incredible place, even I suppose from a coaching point of view where they seem to be gone to at the moment is incredible. To be able to lose the players they have lost over the last few months, and to be able to play at the standard they did in the last two weeks.

“So it’s going to be really tough for Ireland, but I’d say they’re looking forward to it. I’d say they’re in the best position going into a match against New Zealand.

“It’s great that they’re playing them twice. When Clive Woodward was successful with England, that’s something that he did – he tried to get as many fixtures as he could against the Southern Hemisphere nations and I think at the end of this season, we’ll have played Southern Hemisphere nations six times.

“I think it will be good for us and that our standards will rise. You see it with Argentina now in the Rugby Championship.

“When you go in against those teams and play against them consistently, your standards are raised. Whether they can get the job done or not, I don’t know, but I think we’ll give it a good shot.”

Paul O’Connell was launching Aldi’s sponsorship of the IRFU’s Play Rugby programme.

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Murray Kinsella

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