Monday 22 January 2018

Irish on mission to keep Joe Schmidt longer

All Blacks could come calling for best in game

Joe Schmidt
Joe Schmidt

It is understood there are already moves afoot to tie Ireland coach Joe Schmidt down to a long-term contract.

Where the IRFU have gotten ahead of themselves in the past, by handing out long-term deals to Brian Ashton and Eddie O'Sullivan long before the end of their briefs, there can be no doubt that they now have employed the best in the business.

The IRFU's Performance Director David Nucifora will be the main player in the difficult process to keep Schmidt where he is so badly needed.

The notion previously held that Schmidt would be unsuited to the international game based on his workaholic nature has been confounded.

In fact, the greater latitude in time to prepare for what Italy, France, England, Wales and Scotland bring to his first two Six Nations has served to uncover his mastery of the game.

For Leinster, he had to survive on a week-to-week basis where the New Zealander was able to work on improving the environment and the individual progression of players.

READ MORE: IRFU trying to sign Joe Schmidt on long term deal

There was also detailed analysis to unlock defences and find holes where there are usually road-blocks.

He has not had the day-to-day contact with individuals and has had to taper Ireland's game plan to their greatest strengths already in place.

The long lead-in to the Rugby World Cup will begin with Ireland's match against The Barbarians in May.

Schmidt will finally have what he craves, the time and space to work with players one-on-one on how Ireland can fine-tune and make the best use of their collective talent.

The intense international windows also allow Schmidt the room to move away from the public eye of Ireland duty to the private enclosed, life of 'Dad duty' which is so important in the fight to improve the quality of life for his 11-year-old son Luke, who has a severe case of epilepsy.

"Reality, for me, is a long way from rugby when we fly out on Tuesday," said Schmidt.

"I've got a sick son and we're off overseas to see specialists to try to get some help with him," said Schmidt.

"I'll park the rugby for a little while and we'll see if we can get really lucky on both sides of what's important to us and then we'll look at the World Cup towards the end of April."

The problem for the IRFU is on how to sell Schmidt the advantage of staying on at Ireland when New Zealand coach Steve Hansen's contract expires by 2017.

Nucifora could start by clipping on one year to his current deal, due to expire in the summer of 2016, leaving Schmidt in line to throw his hat into the ring for the top job in world rugby, in his home country.

The most wanted man in European rugby - you would have to consult southern hemisphere authorities about making world claims - has never been one to dwell in one place too long.

The three years at Leinster are being followed by three more years at Ireland.

Nucifora may well have to employ the financial assistance from outside agencies, in other words private investment, to offer Schmidt a pot of gold.

It would be worth it to keep him here.

Either way, Ireland have to make the most of what they have right now as they savour the first successful defence of their crown since 1949.

Even Schmidt struggled to remain as unflustered internally as he appeared externally.

The palpitations kept on coming right up until England's final attack as Ireland's grip on the Six Nations slipped down to a shady six points.

The Irish had to watch Wales set a target, surpass that and suffer through a classic between England and France.

Schmidt was quick to reach for the words "tumultuous" and "exhausting" in the aftermath.

"I think it builds coronaries for coaches," he smiled. "The players put their heart and soul into the Championship.

"It's breathtaking. But, I do think it helps build character. I don't think I'd be qualified to say a lot for the next week.

"I'm looking forward to being quite relaxed and that's quite out of character for me."

The loss of the 'undefeated' tag against Wales and a shot at the second Grand Slam in six seasons took time to heal.

"I think the players were quite despondent on Monday, Tuesday and turned themselves around.

"Their performance was super out there," he said. "Beyond that, we'll have a look at what's coming up, try to keep this group together and keep moving forward."

Ireland won't move forward without him.


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