Video: Schmidt handed three-year deal as new Ireland coach
Interim coach Les Kiss to take charge of Ireland tour to USA and Canada
The IRFU has confirmed that Joe Schmidt will take over as Ireland coach on a three-year deal that will include the 2015 World Cup and the 2016 Six Nations campaign.
The 47-year-old New Zealander finish off the season with Leinster, who have a potential double to play for, with Ireland interim manager Les Kiss, who took over after Declan Kidney left the post, taking charge of the tour to the USA and Canada. A squad for that tour will be announced after the Lions squad is unveiled tomorrow. Schmidt will officially begin work on July 1st.
“When I came to Leinster in 2010 I didn’t really want to be a head coach, but I’ve really enjoyed the experience since,” he said.
“I’m really motivated by challenge and this is a super but intimidating one.
“If you’re going to find out what you can bring to a group, what better way than to take on one of the big jobs in world rugby.
“I’ve had a good look at a lot of Ireland’s players and when we get our collective together, we’ll try to improve performance and make us as competitive as possible.”
It is his provincial duties that will prevent Schmidt from making an immediate start as Leinster are through to the final of the Amlin Challenge Cup and remain in RaboDirect Pro12 title contention.
One of the most pressing concerns will be to finalise his backroom staff, but Schmidt said today he will take time to come to a decision.
“The job was only confirmed today and now I need to look ahead and start planning, but that’s difficult because I’ve currently got my hands full,” he said.
“Hopefully over the next four to six weeks I’ll get some time to start getting my head around the new role.”
Instrumental in Schmidt’s decision to swap provincial for Test rugby was the scope it would provide to help his wife look after their nine-year-old son, Luke, who has epilepsy.
While admitting the change from day to day rugby management to clearly defined periods of the calendar will be difficult, he insists it will have its benefits.
“The windows are suffocating, but there is also more scope to get back and forth to New Zealand,” he said.
“I have a daughter who is studying there so it would be nice to get backwards and forwards to see family.
“My family were part of the decision, they’re very settled here.
“I’ve spoken out lately about our smaller son and he’s looked after superbly at his school. That was a big part of our decision making.”
Leinster’s search for his successor has already resulted in Leicester Tigers head coach Matt O’Connor emerging as the province’s favourite. However, there remain a couple of issues to be resolved before that becomes an eventuality, most likely at the end of the week.
The 42-year-old ex-Brumbies centre, after the shift from Michael Cheika’s five-year tenure to Schmidt, is seen as more of a continuation; an energetic, hands-on coach who will challenge the players.
Having been backs coach at the Brumbies for four years and served under Heyneke Meyer and Richard Cockerill at Leicester as directors of rugby, Leinster have taken a similar approach in promoting a well-regarded coach. But like Schmidt he has served an extensive apprenticeship and has worked with some major frontline internationals.
Former Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan has welcomed the appointment of Schmidt and believes the time he has spent in the country will be a huge benefit to him.
“The fact that he is coaching here in Ireland and is not coming in and starting afresh is a huge advantage, because he knows the provinces, he knows the players and he knows the system here,” O’Sullivan said on RTÉ radio.
O’Sullivan praised the way that Schmidt handled all the speculation surrounding the post as it became clear that Declan Kidney’s position wan untenable following a disastrous Six Nations campaign.
“ I think he was very popular and that if Declan was to step down Joe would be the favourite,” added O’Sullivan “He distanced himself as you’d expect for a long time, but I think a couple of weeks ago, once he said in was up to Leinster as to whether he would go forward, I think everyone assumed it was going to be a done deal. Leinster were never going to stand in his way to move up to the next level.”
And O’Sullivan was quick to point out that the demands on international rugby can be frustrating for a coach used to working with players on a day to day basis.
“Coaching a national team , you get very small blocks of time, intensely packed together, and you’ve got to get results in that time,” explained O’Sullivan.
“You don’t have the same wriggle room for experimentation, there’s possibly 10 or 11 games a year and you’ve got to try and win everyone of those games. It’s a different dynamic for him, but he knows that, obviously he’s a very intelligent coach and he knows what he’s stepping in to.”