No pressure on Joe Schmidt over new contract

IRFU happy to wait on decision and would also support coach for Lions job

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is under no immediate pressure to indicate whether he wants to extend his contract beyond the current agreement that finishes on June 30th, 2017.

In a wide-ranging end of season briefing the IRFU's performance director David Nucifora clarified the union's position in relation to Schmidt's impending decision. He also outlined that a succession plan is in place if the national coach steps down, and the IRFU's stance should Schmidt be offered the job of Lions' head coach for next summer's tour to New Zealand.

Nucifora explained: "Will he tell me in July if he's staying? He might; he doesn't have to. Obviously, we're speaking on an on-going basis, if he chooses to extend he can do that any time between now and towards the Six Nations of next year.

“Do we want Joe to stay? Absolutely and commit right through until 2019. He’s got an unusual set of circumstances and we’re just happy to work with him on those and he’ll let us know as soon as he’s got a clear indication in his own head.



“Do we have a plan in place if he decided to leave? Yes, we do. We are gradually building a fairly strong group of coaches in the country and we’d have a number of alternatives to look at . . .

“I don’t think we’re going to have to be shopping outside of the group that we’ve got at the moment within this country to find someone who’s going to be able to step-up to the plate.

“If he does take the [Ireland] job and if he does get offered the Lions job, we’ll come up with a short-term solution . . .”

Regarding Ireland and the upcoming three Test series against South Africa, a decision on the replacement for the injured Luke Fitzgerald will be confirmed today.

Nucifora was asked about the decision to bring in Johan "Rassie" Erasmus to Munster as director of rugby for next season and whether the IRFU would consider following a similar path in Leinster.

"We've worked with all the provinces to put all the structures in place and we've got three very experienced coaches in Munster, Ulster and Connacht. Leo [Cullen] looks like he stands out because of his inexperience but we've worked with Leinster in putting Leo into the position and we think he's going to be a really valuable resource to Irish rugby as a coach for years to come.

“If Leo requires any assistance over time he knows he’s only got to ask and we’ll be there to help. He’s doing a good job . . .”

The Australian confirmed that the union has appointed four new provincial talent ID coaches, Trevor Hogan (Leinster), Michael Black (Ulster), Collie Tucker (Connacht) and Mark Butler (Munster) whose responsibility it will be to scout 15 and 16 year old players in non traditional rugby schools and clubs.

He also confirmed he has had a regular dialogue with Paul O’Connell in relation to any future coach plans.

Nucifora explained that they were aware of the interest internationally in Connacht’s Bundee Aki but should the player indicate that he wants to play international rugby with Ireland, the union would move swiftly to extend his contract that is up next summer.

Aki qualifies for Ireland on the three-year residency rule in October next year.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer