Emotional Joe Schmidt poised to make big decision on his future
Joe Schmidt is expected to make a decision on his future in the next month as he travels home to New Zealand from South Africa.
The Ireland coach has an offer of a contract extension that will keep him in the job until 2019 on the table, while he is receiving overtures from his homeland about a return. Last weekend, New Zealand Rugby Union chief Steve Tew named him as a potential successor to Steve Hansen after the next World Cup.
Schmidt has pledged to inform his current employers of his decision after this tour; his current contract expires at the end of next season and the IRFU have pledged to replace him from within if he chooses to leave.
He has family issues to consider, particularly the health of his young son Luke who has epilepsy.
And the coach became emotional when asked about his big decision on Saturday night. "Yeah, (it is a big decision) for all sorts of reasons. It's not my really decision. I've got a young fella struggling at the moment. That's just the way it is," he said as he fought back tears.
Schmidt can draw huge comfort from the performances of a host of young players despite the series defeat.
"You cannot fault the work ethic of these guys. It's huge," he said. "I'd be lying if I thought that we were suddenly world-beaters. We're just going to try and roll our sleeves up and try to profit from the investment that the last three weeks has been.
"If you'd said to me before we came here 'there'll be three six-point results and you'll get one of them', I would have grabbed it. I'm not sure the players would have, because they are so committed to trying to justify the support they get. They did a super job.
"I think they'll learn from it, but you can't spend too much time learning."
Ireland's next Test window includes two once-off games against New Zealand and a meeting with Australia and Iain Henderson believes his side can build on their performances in South Africa and claim a first victory over the All Blacks in November.
"One thing we can take from this is that, even being a young side, we've made history once on this tour and there's no reason we can't do it again," he said, referencing the victory over the Springboks in Newlands.
"No Irish team has ever beaten the All Blacks and I don't see any reason why we can't. We've got two opportunities to go and do it and hopefully in Chicago we can look to turn them over there."