The day that most of Irish Rugby has been dreading. A headline has appeared in a prominent New Zealand newspaper that says that hints Schmidt's time with Irish Rugby is coming to an end.
According to the New Zealand Herald, the Highlanders CEO Roger Clark has 'confirmed' that the Super Rugby champions are pursuing Schmidt to take over as their new head coach.
The paper's reasoning is valid - the assumption is that Schmidt's end goal is the New Zealand head coaching job, and with Steve Hansen likely to stay on until 2019, Schmidt has time to prove himself with a Super Rugby franchise until then. Not to mention that the coach that helped the Highlanders win the Super Rugby title last year is leaving for Japan.
Were Schmidt to leave Ireland for the Highlanders, he would have to wait a year. The Highlanders just appointed highly rated coach Tony Brown as their head coach for the 2017 season. Brown, who is the current Highlanders attack coach, was instrumental in their Super Rugby success - but will be leaving the Highlanders after that season to join Joseph with the Japanese national team.
Those with a brilliant memory will recall that Brown was mentioned in regards to the Leinster head coaching job before Leo Cullen's appointment, and here's why (Any excuse for poetry like this):
Roger Clark, the Highlanders CEO, gave one of the vaguest responses possible to questions about Schmidt. But he did confirm that he did talk to overseas coaches like Schmidt to gauge their interest in returning for a crack at Super Rugby before Hansen's job opens up.
I've gone round and deliberately contacted coaches like Schmidt overseas to see what their thinking is around coming back to New Zealand and also coaching the Highlanders.
Schmidt's name is the only one mentioned, but there's nothing about how fruitful those exchanges were. What we do know though, is that Schmidt's contract runs out in June 2017, with the main other 'overseas' contender being Warren Gatland - who has signed on with the WRU until 2019.
Time for Phillip Browne and David Nucifora to earn their salaries.
Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile