New Zealand ‘did everything they could’ to get Schmidt back

Ireland coach resisted enormous pressure to take up All Blacks job before signing contract

Joe Schmidt is as prized abroad as he is in Ireland and resisted enormous pressure from New Zealand to return home and take up a coaching role with the All Blacks.

Prior to signing a contract to stay as Ireland rugby coach until after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, New Zealand made concerted efforts to coax the 51-year-old to take a step closer to the job he has always said he would dearly love to have.

Schmidt has been in the role of Irish head coach since November 2013. By the end of the 2019 World Cup, he will have been at the helm for six years.

"New Zealand did everything they possibly could to get Joe back, absolutely everything. A lot of it didn't bubble up to the surface," said IRFU director of rugby David Nucifora speaking at a press briefing in Aviva Stadium.

Nucifora added that the issue is closed for now as Schmidt is in situ for two more years, although he expects more interest to centre around him closer to the time the contract again expires.

“You guys have spoken to Joe. There is no point in having a discussion he doesn’t want to have,” added Nucifora.

“They [New Zealand] put a lot of pressure on. He has been away a long, long time. I suppose that will be a decision he will make closer to the time. We are not going to be bugging him with two years left to go. I feel we have just got over that decision. We are delighted to have got him.

He decided to stay

“I don’t know what they offered him. At the end of the day, it is irrelevant. He decided to stay here.”

While Schmidt’s tenure with Ireland is secure for now, an announcement for the replacement of Munster coach Rassie Erasmus is imminent.

The Munster director of rugby, Erasmus, already stated that South African Dave Wessels was in the running to replace him at the province. The 36-year-old was a former assistant coach to Erasmus at South African Super Rugby side the Stormers.

Nucifora, however, would not confirm if Wessels was the target, although he did say that Munster have narrowed their search down to one person, with whom they are still negotiating.

“We have spoken to a number of people over the last few months and we would be hopeful to have a new man in the short term and we are hopeful it would be permanent,” said Nucifora.

“At the moment we are talking to one person. We have spoken to many people over time but because there is only one now we have to have something done in the short-term.”

Nucifora added that while the IRFU were disappointed that Erasmus and his assistant Jacques Nienaber were both returning to South Africa, they would not be changing their policy towards holding on to coaches, such as Pat Lam and Erasmus, who left Ireland because of more attractive offers.

Explaining that most coaching contracts are different and most have get-out clauses, he added that just like holding on to a player who wants to play elsewhere, keeping a coach from moving is also self-defeating.

“It is understandable when someone is offered a national role it is an attractive prospect and to stand in their way is not practical,” he said.


“All of the contracts are different. They all have exit clauses and all have exit clauses that work for both the employee and employer. There are clauses that might work for you or against you. But even if we tried to hold him . . .trying to hold a coach who does want to stay has no merit. We have a good relationship with him so he will be handing over when the new coach comes.

“Yes these [exit] clauses exist and they will continue to exist. There may be a time when we want to move someone on and it will work in our favour.”

Following the disappoint of this summer's Women's Rugby World Cup staged in UCD and Kingspan Stadium, the IRFU will soon be advertising for a coach to fill the role of Tom Tierney.

Tierney stepped down from coaching the Irish women, deciding not to extend his contract following their below par performances.

Ireland finished eighth in the competition when they lost to Wales in their final match, having missed qualifying for the knockout phase of the tournament.

“We’ll advertise for a coach in the the coming weeks to see what’s in the marketplace,” explained Nucifora before adding “in the 15s we’ve got to do a lot of work”.

His comment came after an All-Ireland league competition returned a scoreline of 105-0.

“That’s not great and that has to be fixed at that level. We have to build that competition so it’s meaningful,” said Nucifora.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times