Leinster’s Schmidt favourite to succeed Kidney

Sounded out by IRFU about availability for job of Ireland head rugby coach

The sudden and persistent level of wagers on Joe Schmidt to get the job of Ireland head rugby coach led to Paddy Power temporarily suspending betting yesterday before reopening it last night with Schmidt as hot favourite. Photograph: Inpho/Ryan Byrne

The sudden and persistent level of wagers on Joe Schmidt to get the job of Ireland head rugby coach led to Paddy Power temporarily suspending betting yesterday before reopening it last night with Schmidt as hot favourite. Photograph: Inpho/Ryan Byrne

 

Leinster rugby coach Joe Schmidt has emerged as the new favourite to become Declan Kidney’s long-term successor as Ireland head coach.

It is understood the New Zealander has been sounded out by the Irish Rugby Football Union about his availability to take over from next season.

The sudden and persistent level of wagers on Schmidt to get the job led to Paddy Power temporarily suspending betting yesterday before reopening it last night with Schmidt as hot favourite.

None of this makes Schmidt’s accession to the throne a fait accompli. On foot of the IRFU announcing last Tuesday they would not be offering Kidney a new contract, the Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie was installed as 2/1 favourite.

Within another 24 hours, two former internationals, the Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea, and his Saracens counterpart Mark McCall, had distanced themselves from the role.

Schmidt would appear to be the best choice in any case, given the knowledge he has accrued of the Irish game during three productive seasons in charge of Leinster, whom he guided to back-to-back Heineken Cup triumphs.

However, the IRFU chief executive Philip Browne and union sources have indicated that a process would be adhered to. In keeping with this, others may also have been sounded out. Furthermore, Schmidt was not especially hankering after the job.

The appointment of Les Kiss as interim head coach, with Gert Smal and Anthony Foley as his assistants, for this summer’s two-match North American tour, has given the union some elbow room.

In addition to all of this, Schmidt is under contract with Leinster for another season, and they will be extremely reluctant to let him go.

However, Schmidt is definitely on Ireland’s radar. And having been 8/1 last Tuesday, he was installed as the 4/9 favourite when Paddy Power reopened betting last night.