'I didn't decide to take up the option of a break clause': Joe Schmidt will turn down any Lions offer
Joe Schmidt has committed to touring with the Ireland squad to the USA and Japan next summer in what constitutes a polite but firm refusal to Lions coach Warren Gatland.
Gatland had hinted this week he would be interested in adding his fellow Kiwi to his ticket after attending Schmidt's stewardship of Ireland's stunning win against next year's Lions' opposition, New Zealand, in Chicago.
But the Ireland coach would be more than willing to allow his newly-appointed assistant, Englishman Andy Farrell, to go on tour if, as seems likely, he is asked, and indeed fully endorsed his candidacy.
"I didn't decide to take up the option of a break clause at the end of June," confirmed Schmidt, after announcing 15 changes to the side that stunned the All Blacks for tomorrow's Guinness November series Test against Canada at the Aviva Stadium.
"The contract was there anyway. It was just that there was a break clause that I didn't opt for. It meant that therefore I was available.
"A big part of the motivation for me not being involved in the Lions was going to the USA and Japan and working with this next cadre of players.
"Because the best of our players will go on the Lions - and the more the better, and hopefully a few more will put their hands up.
"But the ones that don't go will become a really interesting group for us. I want to make sure I get to know those guys, and getting away on tour is one of the best way to do it."
But Schmidt would be more than happy if Farrell was chosen as one of Gatland's several deputies.
"I would be delighted if Andy went. Firstly, because he is a tremendous coach and he does a fantastic job. And it also means that Andy will keep a bit of an eye on our guys," he said.
"So we will have both bases covered there. That would be quite nice but those will be decisions that are not mine to make."