Leinster looking for speedy resolution
Irish province want the IRFU to make a decision on whether Schmidt is preferred choice for vacant Ireland coach position
Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
The current Leinster coach was prepared to honour a contract with the province that finishes at the end of next season but Schmidt has been given the blessing of the provincial hierarchy to pursue the Ireland position if that is his wish. What the three-time European champions are more preoccupied with is a speedy resolution to the negotiations so that they could set about filling a potential vacancy.
Leinster chief executive Mick Dawson explained: “We would obviously prefer Joe to stay but we have already said to him to go for it if the Ireland job is offered to him with our blessing. If Joe goes then we would need to get someone in situ as quickly as possible.
“We had already plans in place for the end of the 2013-2014 season (when Schmidt’s one year extension was due to end) but they would go out the window (if he gets the Ireland job). We have started to look at that eventuality and have to have alternative options. We have to put new plans in place. It’s not an ideal situation (not knowing) but the sooner we know the better.
“Joe has been very straight with us.” The IRFU also know Leinster’s feelings on the matter. Dawson confirmed that 99 per cent of the playing roster is in place – Brian O'Driscoll’s future has yet to be resolved and depending on his decision that could open up one or two avenues – and that any incoming coach would have to largely operate with the players already contacted for next season.
Leinster have proved an ability to work quickly to fill a vacancy in the past when Michael Cheika succeeded Kidney as the province’s head coach in 2005 but the Australian gave them 15 months notice of his intention to quit allowing them to headhunt Schmidt.
The interview process for the Ireland job is reputed to be taking place today and tomorrow and while Schmidt and Ireland’s defence coach Les Kiss are two of the interviewees, the fact that the Queensland Reds (Ewen McKenzie) and the Brumbies (Jake White) meet in the Super 15 on Saturday in Australia intimates that neither is in contention, the timeframe is incorrect or the IRFU has divided up the interview process, which would seem a strange decision, and are prepared to travel.
McKenzie has stated his intention of leaving the Reds this summer and his desire to pursue an appointment at Test level. White, contracted to the Brumbies until 2015, guided South Africa when they won the World Cup in 2007. He was recently quoted as saying: “At the end of the day I’m available to coach at a higher level but I can only emphasise that’s not until I’m finished doing my job which is to coach these guys (the Brumbies) to where I want to get them to and that’s to the top.” If the Brumbies win the Super 15 this season then that satisfies his goal but it’s unlikely the IRFU are going to hang around on such a tenuous supposition. Kiss will preside as interim over Ireland’s two match tour to the USA and Canada this summer.
The IRFU’s National Team Review Group, consisting of chairman, Martin O’Sullivan, Pat Whelan, Tom Grace and Eddie Wigglesworth and chief executive Philip Browne were involved in whittling down the initial interest to a shortlist. The union has engaged an outside recruitment consultant and he was named in a Sunday newspaper as Bart Campbell.
The latter is a New Zealander who set-up Global Sports Management before selling the company to Essentially Sports Marketing where he is group chief executive. Essentially have the same presence in rugby, amongst other sports, that IMG would have in golf. They include the IRB, The British & Irish Lions, ERC, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and SANZAR among their clients.
The most surprising aspect of the current process is the IRFU’s decision to put the cart before the horse so to speak and engage a coach ahead of appointing a performance director, whose responsibility will be to manage professional rugby in Ireland. Conor O’Shea would seem the ideal candidate; his commitment to Harlequins, a major stumbling block.
It’s reasonable to suggest that the appointee should have been part of the interview process for a new national coach given that his remit will include the responsibility for the four provinces and the national team.
The IRFU’s decision to appoint Kiss to take the summer tour gave them leeway to make the appointments in the correct order; but only if they weren’t going to appoint Schmidt. It would be unfair to keep Leinster dangling. The province has understandably started to look worldwide for a successor – the name of NZ Under-20 coach Chris Boyd has been mentioned.