Ireland coach Schmidt to step down after World Cup

Joe Schmidt (Gallo)
Joe Schmidt (Gallo)

Dublin - World coach of the year Joe Schmidt is to step down as Ireland handler after next year's Rugby World Cup and be replaced by their defence guru Andy Farrell the Irish Rugby Football Union announced on Monday.

The 53-year-old New Zealander - named coach of the year on Sunday - says he will take time out of coaching to prioritise his family.

This may lay to rest the rumours linking him with potentially taking over world champions New Zealand were Steve Hansen to announce in December he too is stepping down after the World Cup.

Schmidt has guided the Irish to unprecedented success in his tenure since taking over the reins of a demoralised outfit in 2013.

Under him they have won three Six Nations titles - including this year's Grand Slam - and two historic wins over world champions New Zealand, including a first ever win over them on Irish soil in an epic 16-9 victory earlier this month.

Schmidt will next year hope to set right the one major disappointment in his reign - the humbling by Argentina in the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals - and deliver the Webb Ellis trophy to Ireland for the first time.  

Schmidt, who was hired as Ireland coach on the back of a successful spell at Irish province Leinster winning successive European Cups (2011/12), has often spoken about how little he gets to see his family with the demands of the job.

One of Schmidt's four children Luke suffers from epilepsy and the coach has become heavily involved in the epilepsy charity in Ireland.    

"I have decided to finish coaching and will prioritise family commitments after the RWC in 2019," said Schmidt.

"I feel that Irish rugby is in good hands.

"The management and players have been incredible to work with and the tremendous support we have had, particularly at Lansdowne Road, but where ever we have travelled has been uplifting."

David Nucifora, the IRFU'S Director of Rugby, concurred with others such as captain Rory Best and world player of the year fly-half Johnny Sexton that Schmidt's contribution had changed the face of the sport in Ireland.  

"Joe’s contribution to Irish rugby is broader than just the success achieved with the national team," he said.

"Regardless of what happens on the pitch over this period of time (the next 11 months) we are all clearly aware and thankful of the better place that Joe will be leaving Irish Rugby in post the Rugby World Cup."  

Farrell, a former England rugby league great who switched codes and represented England in union as well, has been instrumental also in Ireland's success since being hired in 2016.

The 43-year-old Englishman - whose son Owen is England's co-captain and first choice flyhalf - has been Ireland's gain and his home country's loss.

Eddie Jones considered him surplus to requirements as defence coach on taking over following the 2015 World Cup debacle which saw hosts England crash out in the group stage.

Farrell's prowess in defence coaching has been integral to three victories over the All Blacks in the last two years, the two Irish ones in Chicago in 2016 and this year and the British & Irish Lions success in 2017 in the three Test series which ended 1-1.

"I have learned a lot from Joe over the past few seasons and I will continue to learn from him over the next year," said Farrell.

Nucifora said Farrell's appointment provided the essential ingredient of continuity.

"He (Farrell) has proven through his work ethic and success with Ireland and the Lions over the last number of years that he is the person to take Irish Rugby forward after RWC 2019," said Nucifora.

"The close working relationship that our current coaching group have and what they will continue to gain over the next year with Joe still at the helm leaves Andy and Irish Rugby in the enviable position of having continuity before building the road forward."

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