Schmidt ‘interested’ to hear Leinster’s take on Ireland job
New Zealander is ‘at this stage’ committed to the province and reluctant to speculate on his future
Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt is the favourite for the Ireland job. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
With another season left on his contract, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt believes it is "unlikely" he will succeed Declan Kidney as Ireland boss, but the Kiwi suggested last night he would be keen to hear the province's response were an approach made by the IRFU.
Speaking after Leinster's 48-28 Amlin Challenge Cup win over Wasps at Adams Park, the New Zealander hardly distanced himself from the speculation that gathered pace yesterday after his odds in the race to become to the next Ireland coach shortened dramatically.
This morning he was the 8 to 15 favourite ahead of Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie (9 to 4), who himself was shortened to 2 to 1 favourite hours before the IRFU announced on Tuesday they would not be offering Kidney a new contract.
With the momentum having shifted back in Schmidt's favour, however, the question of his future was put to him in London by RTÉ.
“It’s entirely dependent on Leinster because, that’s where my commitment lies," said Schmidt, who is believed to have been already sounded out by the IRFU.
"I have to say that I have never not completed a contract that I’ve committed to. If that’s determined, something they are interested in doing, then that’s not quite in my hands but I’d be interested to see what Leinster had to say.
“I guess, in the end, I wouldn’t like to speculate about anything. I would have to say that it’s unlikely just because my commitment is to Leinster at this stage.”
Schmidt, "at this stage", remains Leinster property, but the appointment of Les Kiss as interim Ireland coach, with Gert Smal and Anthony Foley as his assistants, for this summer's North American tour, means the IRFU has time to negotiate with the province, if the Kiwi is the man they want to lead to Ireland to the 2015 World Cup in England.
Schmidt, meanwhile, has called on the warring politicians of European rugby to listen to the supporters and pull out all the stops to save the Heineken Cup. The English and French clubs are at loggerheads with their rivals from Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy over the future shape of European rugby.
Talks have reached a stalemate and if no agreement can be put in place for the 2014-15 season then there will be no Heineken Cup and no Amlin Challenge Cup.
Schmidt, who guided Leinster to successive Heineken Cup triumphs, finds it unbelievable that the game’s power brokers would betray such a popular and valuable competition.
“You cannot have a product that is this good and not continue it,” Schmidt said. “The Premiership clubs are pretty well represented this year. Leicester, Saracens and Harlequins all have great shots. That inevitably will get enthusiasm and clubs will want to do what their supporters want to see.
“Therefore, with competitions like this, I just don’t think people are going to allow to let it slip. I think one of the options that have been discussed will come to be and hopefully it will be inclusive of the whole of Europe and we will continue what has been a fantastic tradition over the last 15 years.”