Captain Rory Best has urged head coach Joe Schmidt to extend his contact and lead Ireland to the Rugby World Cup 2019.
Ulster hooker Best hailed Schmidt as “one of the best coaches I’ve worked with” as he called on the former Leinster boss to remain with Ireland beyond next summer.
Schmidt has admitted he will decide his long-term future after Ireland’s June tour to South Africa, with his current contract expiring in the summer of 2017.
Schmidt will doubtless be tempted to return to his native New Zealand next summer, to start a long quest to coach the All Blacks, but Best admitted Ireland would remain all the richer for him staying put.
“Absolutely I’d urge him to stay on: from a player’s point of view this coaching staff is one of the best I’ve ever worked with, and he’s one of the best coaches I’ve worked with,” said Best.
“It would be great to keep it together and keep pushing Ireland forward.
“Okay we’re playing for third place tomorrow but to have delivered three championships in two years is not a bad return.”
Scrum coach Feek echoed Best’s sentiments, admitting the widely-held hope that Schmidt will stay with Ireland beyond 2017.
Scrum specialist Feek worked under Schmidt at Leinster before following the head coach into the Test arena, and now hopes to extend that working relationship still further.
“I hope Joe stays, I’ve enjoyed working with Joe for the last six seasons, we’ve got a good relationship,” said Feek.
“The players and Joe are among the reasons why I’m here.
“You’re always tested, you want to be challenged all the time, you want to grow and you want to see what the next thing will be.
“The next thing will be exciting as well. Andy Farrell coming in as defence coach will be another exciting event for us, there will be a change-up there too.
“Joe’s already talked about his reasons behind that decision-making.
“But we all get on really well behind the scenes and I hope he stays on.”