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Saturday 3 December 2016

IRFU offers Cullen help

Joe Schmidt's successor will come within the Irish system

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photo: Sportsfile

The IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora has opened the door for Leinster to follow the same path as Munster.

The employment of Rassie Erasmus as Director of Rugby has taken a lot of the power and the heat away from Anthony Foley as he continues to build his coaching experience.

"Leo (Cullen) looks like he stands out because of his inexperience," said Nucifora, comparing the Leinster head coach to the 'leading men' in the other three provinces.

"But we've worked with Leinster in putting Leo into the position.

"He's there now 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 give him that assistance."

There was recognition of how Cullen is working from a distinct disadvantage.

"It's not easy coming into a head coaching position with such little experience because he is learning on the go and that can be tricky at times.

"He is developing and is going to develop into a really important asset for Irish rugby as a coach. Does he need help along the way? Possibly, but that's up to Leinster and Leo to ask for that, if they think that's required."

There is still no movement on the issue of Joe Schmidt's decision to extend or end his contract as Ireland coach.

"Will he tell me in July if he's staying? He might. He doesn't have to," said Nucifora.

The question of Schmidt's possible temporary abdication to join the British & Irish Lions in New Zealand has already been taken into consideration.

In place

"If Joe decides to take on The Lions job - he will already have made the decision to stay on until 2019 - that (clause) will automatically be in place."

That could very well be a case of 'last-man-in' as Andy Farrell holds the greatest international experience.

"If he decides that he doesn't want to do The Lions and he needs to leave, we will be looking for a successor."

Should Schmidt move on, the next man up would come from one of those already in the Irish system.

"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."

Pat Lam immediately stands out for the level of experience and for what he has done at Connacht.

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