Joe Schmidt to decide by end of year about new contract

New Zealander says he is happy to be part of ‘a really nicely oiled machine’

Head coach Joe Schmidt during Ireland  squad training at North Sydney Oval,  Australia. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Head coach Joe Schmidt during Ireland squad training at North Sydney Oval, Australia. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

Joe Schmidt will make a decision by the end of the year about extending his tenure as Irish head coach beyond the 2019 World Cup and thus beyond 5½ years.

Having initially signed a three-year contract from the start of the 2013-14 season in July 2015, Schmidt extended that by another year, and then in October 2016, after lengthy speculation, he signed another extension taking him up to the end of the 2019 World Cup.

He strongly suggested that this decision will not be as drawn out, but, in giving little clues as to his next step, maintained it was not something he was thinking about at the moment despite David Nucifora saying earlier this week that the IRFU would like Schmidt to remain on after next year’s World Cup,

“No, I am off the hook there. That is a long way away. Some of that stuff will probably, by the end of this year I’d say, there will be some clear direction there because, for the entire following year, I am still in situ, unless I get sacked. You just never take anything for granted. You can be flavour of the week one week, and then things can turn around very quickly. “I take nothing for granted, but I have been lucky enough to do the job for as long as I have, and I have really enjoyed the people I have worked with. One of the misconceptions is that a head coach has a major influence. I would like to think I have a degree of influence, but I have a great coaching team and that includes Jason Cowman and the strength and conditioning coach department and the medical team.

“I think Ireland are really lucky. Conor [Murray] mentioned earlier that the coaches manage the players well, but the medical people have managed them well as well. It is a really nicely oiled machine to be part of, and I have benefitted from that massively.

Special memories

“I would say I will try and get through the November series. That was announced recently as well, and it will be quite exciting for us, obviously with the All Blacks coming, Argentina and the USA on the back of their first Tier One scalp (since 1924). And then we’re away to Italy in Chicago, which has some really special memories for us.

“That is a really nice group of games and then following that, one of the few times of the year our family manages to get together is Christmas and we will make a decision after that, I would say.”

Taking into account his three years apiece with both Clermont and Leinster, he and his wife Kellie will have been based away from New Zealand for 11½ years come the end of the next World Cup.

Of Schmidt’s four children, apart from Abby, who is now in New Zealand, Tim (22), Ella (18) and Luke (14) all are in Dublin, and he said it was his family’s happiness which would be the primary factor.

“I think that has got to be a priority for anyone in a job, because I am kept pretty happy, pretty easily, being able to work with the quality of the people that I work with, so from that perspective it is incredibly positive.

“My family obviously extends beyond my immediate family. And there is some lingering doubt about being so far away, but I tend to be able to get back once a year, and that is a pretty precious time to get back and enjoy the rest of the family.

“It is one of those things, any time I have thought about it I have stopped myself thinking about it. I have said; ‘yea, just get on with the job in hand and when you get to the end of November, give yourself a couple of weeks not to linger too much over it, but just to make a decision.’ There will be times when I lapse and think about it briefly, and I think that is important as well, just so I can try to be definitive when the time comes.”

Good spirits

Schmidt has been in good spirits of late, especially since Ireland levelled the three-test series against the Wallabies last Saturday, and it’s clear he enjoys the job as much, if indeed not more, as ever.

“I love these tours. I really enjoyed South Africa two years ago, and really enjoyed Japan and USA last year, because you get to know people, not just to work with players. And so knowing people it helps you work with them as players, you get to know who needs what motivation and direction.”

There are not too many parts to the job he does not like, and especially what he calls “the active coaching parts of the job”, and it’s striking how often he is still on something of a high after a session. On Wednesday, with the torrential downpours which curtailed Tuesday’s session having passed, was no exception.

“We were out on the pitch this morning and it was relatively mild. The North Sydney Oval is a great little spot. They have looked after us well there. I really enjoyed that. The players might not say I sound like I am enjoying it because there is some abrupt directive and direct comment, but apart from that I think everyone enjoys the actual rolling the sleeves up and getting to work.”

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