Going into the season Joe Schmidt was one of the front-runners to take charge of the Irish & British Lions on the 2017 tour to New Zealand. Subsequent results and contract revealings mean that it's unlikely that Schmidt will be the main man on the tour, and there have been some calls for Schmidt to step down as Ireland head coach.
Schmidt's contract with the IRFU lasts until just before the Lions tour, but there is no candidate in World Rugby that would do a better job than the Kiwi. Most would like to see some more trust put in younger players, extending Schmidt's contract until the World Cup in 2019 would help give him some focus towards that tournament.
On Thursday, the 50-year-old revealed that his future will be decided following Ireland's tour to South Africa in June:
It is something that I’ve committed to, making a decision once we get back from Africa really. It’s really important that there is a clear pathway for players to know that there’s some continuity there or if that continuity is going to be with someone else. That there’s a span of enough time that they can get the game up and running as they see it best being played. I am conscious of my responsibility there.
Schmidt has always been open that his future depends on more than his rugby career, with his son Luke's care with epilepsy of the utmost importance to the Schmidt's:
There’s some factors outside of rugby that tend to dictate for me, we’ll be a little bit further down the track with some of those decisions as well.
Schmidt's re-signing would be welcomed throughout the country, and the hope would be that the IRFU would place less importance on the Six Nations and more on the longer term picture of the World Cup.
The players are certainly behind their coach, and Sexton was among the first to call for another contract for him:
I hope he’s here for at least the next World Cup. That’s what everyone in the squad would hope. We feel that we’re building something. Fingers crossed, he will be here. There are circumstances that he probably has to consider. I wouldn’t like to speak for him. I’m sure he’ll answer it himself.
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