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'I don't spend a lot of time at home already, so it's probably high time I did'

The Ireland boss didn’t rule out the possibility of taking on the 2021 Lions.

Murray Kinsella reports from London

WHEN CONFIRMATION OF Joe Schmidt’s decision to leave his job as Ireland head coach after this year’s World Cup arrived back in November, there was a surprise.

The IRFU press release quoted Schmidt as saying, “I have decided to finish coaching.”

Des Cahill with Joe Schmidt Schmidt with Des Cahill at an event last month. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

It wasn’t quite a retirement announcement and, with Schmidt never one to put himself in front of the media when not explicitly required to do so, it was difficult to clarify what his intentions are.

The Ireland boss was in London today for the launch of the 2019 Six Nations and, as ever, the room was packed when he sat down and spoke about his decision – will this be retirement?

“Yeah, that’s certainly the short-term plan,” said Schmidt. “I haven’t made too many plans but the short-term plan is not to be involved in coaching, certainly not for 12 months and I’d say quite likely longer than that.

“We’ve got a couple of projects that are family-related that we want to work our way through.

“And I don’t spend a lot of time at home already, so I think it’s probably high time I did.”

The 2021 British and Irish Lions trip to South Africa would seem a possibility for Schmidt if he does opt to return to coaching and while he said he wouldn’t accept an offer from the famous tourists right now, he didn’t rule it out completely either.

“I wouldn’t be available if asked at the moment, and I said to my wife that we’d get these 12 months done and she said, ‘Ah, look, you’ll last 12 days, potentially, without needing to do something,’” said Schmidt.

Jacques Brunel, Warren Gatland, Eddie Jones, Joe Schmidt, Gregor Townsend and Conor O’Shea Schmidt was at the Six Nations launch in London today. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“And I wouldn’t say that I’m looking to do any coaching so it’s not something that’s at the forefront of my mind.

“I think one of the things I decided in a conversation with myself, for want of a better word, is that whatever does happen after that, I want to make sure these next 10 months are as good as I can help the players be and put as much effort into that.

“And so I think that’s where your energies go. If you start getting distracted about what happens beyond that… I’ve had an incredibly planned life for so many years, you get the daily itinerary – one of the girls in the office gives me my schedule for the week, this is where I’m going to go and this is where I’m going visiting, or this is the club I’m at or school I’m at, or whatever.

“So I’m kind of looking forward to having 12 months where I can just invest that energy in one direction and also not have a daily itinerary or a weekly plan that says, ’This is how you fill your time’ and it is very well filled, I’d have to say!”

When Schmidt departs, his current assistant coach Andy Farrell will be the man stepping up to succeed him. 

While also highlighting Farrell’s playing career in union and league, Schmidt underlined why he believes the Englishman is qualified to take over as Ireland head coach.

“The four years that he spent with Stuart [Lancaster] doing England and I think we’ve seen the evidence of the quality of coaching Stuart can deliver with what Leinster have achieved in recent times,” said Schmidt.

“When we played England during those years that Stuart and Andy were there, it was always going to be an incredibly tight tussle because they were incredibly well-organised and their defence was always going to be organised. 

Joe Schmidt with Andy Farrell Schmidt and Farrell have worked well together. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“Andy has done the attack side of the game as well, so he understands it. We would talk a lot about that in our coaches’ meeting, our strategy is very much a collective strategy.

“Andy’s been a part of that for the last three years and so has Simon Easterby, who is a bit of an unsung hero in amongst our group. He does a fantastic job, as do Greg Feek and Richie Murphy.

“He’ll have a really strong crew to start with. I know Greg Feek will be finishing but I do think we’re in a really strong position in our depth in the front row, whereas before Greg arrived I don’t think we were in that position.

“Andy, with the experience that he’s had as an assistant coach and even as a head coach with Saracens before, he’s really well-qualified.

“He takes a bit of space in a room too, Andy. I can’t really do that, as corny and small as I am, it’s pretty hard to eyeball people because I’m always looking up to them.”

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Murray Kinsella

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