Joe Schmidt to decide on his Ireland future this summer

Coach will choose whether or not to extend his tenure after the tour to South Africa

Joe Schmidt: “It is something that I’ve committed to, making a decision once we get back from Africa.” Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Joe Schmidt: “It is something that I’ve committed to, making a decision once we get back from Africa.” Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

Joe Schmidt has confirmed he will make a decision after this summer’s tour to South Africa regarding whether or not he will extend his tenure as Irish coach until the 2019 World Cup in Japan. Schmidt is currently contracted through to the end of next season, 2016-17, his fourth year at the helm.

“It is something that I’ve committed to, making a decision once we get back from Africa really. It’s really important that there is a clear pathway for players to know that there’s some continuity there or if that continuity is going to be with someone else. That there’s a span of enough time that they can get the game up and running as they see it best being played. I am conscious of my responsibility there.”

Family considerations will also go some way to determining whether he extends his stay in Irish rugby beyond six years, after a run of four trophies in his three years with Leinster and two Six Nations’ titles in his first two seasons with Ireland.

Rugby decision

“You couldn’t get a better group of young men to work with and some not so young men who are still sprightly in how they move about and the mix has changed a bit this year.

“We’re going to go out on the weekend and play with about half as many caps as we had last time we played Scotland. Those things change but at the same time you can still get pretty excited about what the future might hold.

“You just want to get a good finish now and I know Vern (Cotter) will feel the same way,” he added in reference to his long-time Bay of Plenty and Clermont sidekick and current Scottish counterpart.

Second Captains

The Ireland coach said Cotter helped him at “being decisive and trying to grow the key leaders in a team if you’re going to have a strong decision-making group on the pitch.”

In addition to “tight play”, Schmidt said Cotter “had a real ability to crystallise messages and deliver them. He drives an environment. ‘Les yeux de glaces’ was his nickname in France, ‘the eyes of ice’. He didn’t have to say to much for you to know he was unhappy. His presence is such that he does certainly drive a group incredibly well.”

“That strategy and rugby intellect that he was part of, along with Robbie Deans, was something else. It’s probably hard to specify and quantify, because a lot of it is almost by osmosis. You spend a fair bit of time coaching together, you pick things up . . . They just merge as part of your coaching character because you’ve absorbed lessons from other people. I absorbed a lot from VC.”

Schmidt said Rory Best trained fully after overcoming his calf strain. So Best will play in his 50th successive Six Nations match – only John Hayes (54) has had a longer sequence for Ireland.

Schmidt maintained his slightly surprising decision to recall Tommy O’Donnell for Josh van der Flier in the one change from last week was not in any way a horses for courses selection.

While O’Donnell brought a freshness, the management detected a residual fatigue with van der Flier after back-to-back 80 minute performances.

Cotter makes three changes from the team which beat France. Lock Tim Swinson replaces the injured Jonny Gray, and Ryan Wilson who is preferred to Josh Strauss at ‘8’. Duncan Weir returns for his concussed club mate Finn Russell at outhalf while Rob Harley and Henry Pyrgos feature on the bench for the first time in this campaign. Keith Earls and John Barclay both win their 50th caps. Scotland’s starting XV has 513 Test caps and an average age of 28.1 years.

The Irish XV has 625 Test caps, with an average age of 29.5 years; the average on the bench is 29.1.

Richardt Strauss, Cian Healy and Eoin Reddan all return to the bench at the expense of Sean Cronin, Finlay Bealham and Kieran Marmion.

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