Joe Schmidt rules out involvement in Lions’ tour
Warren Gatland had proposed idea but Ireland coach will focus on USA and Japan tours
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt: would be happy for Irish defence coach Andy Farrell to work with the Lions. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Despite public overtures from Warren Gatland suggesting there was the “potential” for Joe Schmidt to be part of the Lions’ coaching ticket in New Zealand next summer, the Irish head coach yesterday politely declined to be involved.
Instead, overseeing Ireland’s tour to the USA and Japan, which clashes with the Lions tour to New Zealand, is his priority. That said, Schmidt would be happy for Irish defence coach Andy Farrell to again fulfil that role with the Lions, as he did in Australia three years ago.
Since ruling himself out of the running for the position of Lions’ head coach last summer, Schmidt has extended his contract with Ireland, thus making him unavailable.
However, Schmidt said he did have the option of “a break clause that I didn’t opt for”, saying: “A big part of the motivation for me not being involved in the Lions was going to the USA and Japan and working with this next cadre of players, because the best of our players will go on the Lions and the more the better.
While Gatland said he would “wait and see” regarding Farrell, he also spoke highly of the man he worked with in Australia.
Schmidt also said: “I would be delighted if Andy went, firstly, because he is a tremendous coach and he does a fantastic job, and it also means that Andy will keep a bit of an eye on our guys.
“It is certainly one collective but he will be able to give us a bit of feedback on how our guys are going there. So we will have both bases covered there. That would be quite nice but those will be decisions that are not mine to make.”
It could also mean giving more experience to an indigenous Irish coach, perhaps offering the chance to extend Richie Murphy’s portfolio on the tour to the USA and Japan.