Joe Schmidt: Irish head coach agonises over his decision to stay or go

Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt
Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt will reveal on Sunday or Monday if he will commit his long-term future to Ireland or return to his native New Zealand.

His employers may well know his decision on Sunday evening, 24 hours after Ireland complete their November Test series against USA on Saturday in Dublin.

But it could be the middle of next week before that call is made public.

The 53-year-old, who has seen Ireland climb to number two in the World Rugby Rankings and beaten New Zealand twice, is expected to make a decision to leave when his contract runs out after next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Schmidt said on Thursday at the team announcement ahead of the game against USA from their training base at Carton House that he had agonised over the decision.

“It’s a decision that will probably not be finalised until Sunday, certainly by early next week,” said Schmidt.

“But it’s a decision that’s been a long time coming,” added the Ireland coach.

“To be honest I’ve beaten myself up enough about this decision. I’m probably going to be the most pleased of anyone when it is finally made.”

Later, an at-times emotional Schmidt, reflecting the agony he has been in with making a decision, said: It has been really tough on me to be honest.

“I am not sure, you know, and I cannot believe the support we have had here as a family.”

Schmidt, who led Ireland to the Grand Slam this year, as well as Six Nations titles in 2014 and 2015, is believed to be front of the queue to step into New Zealand’s coaching ranks if he opts to return home.

The Kiwi has masterminded both of Ireland’s victories over New Zealand, including Saturday’s 16-9 win in Dublin, and guided his team from eighth to second in the world rankings in five years at the helm.

Ireland have reached the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup during Schmidt’s tenure but will hope to hit at least the last four for the first time in 2019.