Joe Schmidt named World Rugby’s high performance director

‘We are delighted to appoint a person of Joe’s calibre, expertise and global credibility’

Joe Schmidt is World Rugby’s new Director of Rugby and High Performance. File photograph: Inpho

World Rugby's appointment of Joe Schmidt as their newly created "director of rugby and high performance" provides the ultimate example of poacher turned gamekeeper.

In a role comparable to David Nucifora at the IRFU and Conor O’Shea in England, Schmidt will engage with “coaches, players and match officials in the decision-making process, as it seeks to make the sport simpler, safer and more enjoyable for both participants and spectators,” WR stated.

Schmidt, who has won major honours as coach of ASM Clermont Auvergne, Leinster and Ireland, including the 2018 Grand Slam, is renowned for his ability to dissect a referee's performance. Instead of putting the official's flaws under a glaring post-match spotlight, the 55-year-old will to protect and guide them in an ever changing game.

Paddy O’Brien has temporarily returned as World Rugby’s referees manager, a position vacated by Alain Rolland after last year’s World Cup, and will answer directly to his fellow New Zealander. Dr Éanna Falvey, World Rugby’s medical director, also rekindles his working relationship with the former Ireland coach.


Schmidt is already helping to modernise the laws of the game, having played a central role in breakdown interpretations, designed to reward the player seeking to legally slow or steal possession while also protecting their necks and shoulders from dangerous exposure.

Another vital task for Schmidt in restructuring WR’s high performance environment is to strengthen Tier 2 player pathways and coaching structures.

“A great man for the job,” tweeted the IRFU.

Despite a number of clubs showing interest in his services - Bath and Clermont were previously reported - Schmidt’s latest move, a full year since parting ways with Ireland, puts a return to full time coaching on hold at least until after France 2023. The position allows him to keep living in Dublin and work out of WR headquarters.

“I’m really looking forward to getting started,” said Schmidt. “I’m passionate about the game and keen that people continue to enjoy being involved in it, from the young to the young at heart. The professional game is the showpiece for our sport and involving key stakeholders in our discussions about how the game is played and how players are managed will be beneficial.

“It has been a challenging year thus far and likely to remain difficult for some time, but it has been great to see the resumption of numerous competitions, with plenty of entertaining and exciting matches.”

Former Ireland lock Bob Casey, the managing director of Korn Ferry Ireland, is credited by WR with “securing this key appointment.”

“Joe is a great technician and a big picture thinker,” said Bernard Laporte, the president of French rugby and WR vice chairman. “His expertise is perfectly suited to the high performance rugby committee’s ambition of making the game even more attractive and accessible to all, while ensuring the highest standards of player welfare.”

Schmidt starts his new job in mid-November.