Saturday 1 October 2016

Zebo backs Schmidt for Lions as IRFU deal stretched to 2017

Published 23/07/2015 | 02:30

Joe Schmidt has extended his Ireland contract by one more year
Joe Schmidt has extended his Ireland contract by one more year

Joe Schmidt has penned a one-year extension to his IRFU contract and Simon Zebo believes he is the right man to lead the Lions when that deal expires in June 2017.

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Bookmakers have installed the Kiwi coach as favourite to lead the tourists on their visit to his homeland in two years' time, while the timing of the contract also opens up the possibility of a return to New Zealand as All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's current term ends at the end of the 2017 season.

Wales supremo Warren Gatland, who led the Lions to a series victory in Australia in 2013 is Schmidt's main rival for the role.

But Zebo believes the two-time Six Nations winning Ireland coach has what it takes to take on the current world champions.

"I'm sure he would be a great addition. Whoever gets the nod to coach the Lions will have serious pedigree and be a pretty successful coach," the Munster winger said.

"Joe would be no different. He has proven how good he is internationally and with Leinster. When that time comes I'm sure if he is asked he would be a worthy candidate."

Zebo has been in and out of Schmidt's team since the New Zealander took over in 2013, but he welcomed yesterday's news.

"It's brilliant (that he's staying). It's just a bit of solidity," he said. "You don't have to deal with changes and learning a new game plan and things like that. We would be pretty regimented in things we know so far.

"He's sticking around, he's a brilliant coach, very successful. Hopefully we can get more success with him."

Meanwhile, it looks increasingly likely that Leinster will hand Leo Cullen the head coach's position on a full-time basis for the coming season.

The three-time Heineken Cup winner is currently taking charge of pre-season after they parted company with Matt O'Connor at the end of last season and the squad are understood to have responded well to his methods.

Leinster are in the process of appointing a backs coach for the upcoming term to fill the void left by O'Connor who had responsibility for the attacking game. Kurt McQuilkin will man the defence on a temporary basis, while John Fogarty is the scrum coach.

New Zealand cult hero Carlos Spencer is among the candidates being considered, while Highlanders coach Tony Brown remains in contention for the role.

Irish Independent

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