Ireland coach Joe Schmidt's new deal worth up to €850K a year
Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt is staying with the national team until 2017 in a deal that will see him earn up to €850,000 a year.
Schmidt, who turns 50 in September, is hot property in the rugby world, and the pay increase is a sign of how highly rated he is by the IRFU, who are keen to keep him from the clutches of other rugby nations.
The New Zealander (right) had previously led Leinster to two European Cup triumphs and his tenure in charge of the Ireland team has been equally as successful - bringing home two Six Nations titles in succession.
Under his tenure the squad has risen in the world rankings to an all-time high, moving from eight position to third.
The deal extends Schmidt's contract by a year - with his original terms due to expire in June 2016 - and is a massive morale boost for the squad ahead of this autumn's World Cup in England, according to Irish rugby legend Tony Ward.
"It's not good news - it's great news," he told RTE Drivetime.
"We're very lucky to have the best coach we've ever had. It's a very timely boost going into the World Cup - happy days," added Ward.
However, the former fly-half believes it's no coincidence that the contract will finish up in two years time.
The British and Irish Lions tour are set to tour Schmidt's homeland in 2017, and Schmidt could be fighting it out with former Ireland coach Warren Gatland for the Lions top job.
Meanwhile, Steve Hansen's tenure as the New Zealand head coach is up in 2017, and Ward is tipping Schmidt for both positions.
"There also happens to be a Lions tour and then he has the possibility of moving back to his old country and taking over from Hansen."
When asked whether Schmidt had the capability of taking over from Gatland with the Lions squad, Ward was in no doubt.
"I think so - he has to be the hot favourite," he said.
Former Ireland and Lions hooker Shane Byrne echoed the views of Ward, and said keeping Schmidt for much longer could be an impossible task.
"There will be people knocking on his door in 2017, there's no doubt about that. But right now our short-term future is secured with one of the hottest properties in coaching," he said.
IRFU performance director David Nucifora expressed his delight that negotiations had concluded in good time.
"We believe that Joe is one of the leading coaches in world rugby so we are delighted that he has extended his contract and will continue to work in Irish Rugby," he said.