THE odds on Joe Schmidt becoming the next Ireland manager have hardened over the weekend.
As bookies installed him as 4/6 favourite to take over from Declan Kidney – whose tenure ended last week – a senior Leinster source confirmed yesterday that Schmidt had been contacted by the IRFU last week.
"They rang him to talk about meeting up but that's as far as it's gone at this stage," the source said. "Obviously everyone at Leinster would hope it doesn't go much further but we'll see."
Schmidt's comments to RTE on Friday night after the win over Wasps indicated for the first time that he might be open to the idea of coaching Ireland if Leinster and the IRFU were able to come to some form of agreement.
"It's entirely dependent on Leinster because that's where my commitment lies," he said. "I have to say that I have never not completed a contract that I've committed to. If that's determined – something they are interested in doing – then that's not quite in my hands but I'd be interested to see what Leinster had to say.
"I guess, in the end, I wouldn't like to speculate about anything. I would have to say that it's unlikely just because my commitment is to Leinster at this point."
Schmidt's emergence as the clear favourite has shifted Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie to second place in the betting. McKenzie said last month that he wanted to move up to Test level at the end of the Super rugby season, and last week declared an interest in the Ireland job.
Meanwhile, Munster take to the field in today's Heineken Cup quarter-final agaisnt Harlequins as Ireland's last remaining representatives in the competition following Ulster's disappointing 27-16 exit to Saracens at Twickenham last night.
Will Fraser and Chris Ashton scored tries in each half for the English side and Owen Farrell was his reliable self with the boot. Untypically, Ulster's Ruan Pienaar missed two kickable and crucial penalties early on.
And Stade Francais scrumhalf Jerome Fillol is sure to be cited after spitting on his opposite number Peter Stringer in the Paris club's Amlin Challenge Cup win over Bath.
"Obviously it is a bit raw at the moment, but it happened on the pitch and there is no place in the game for it," said Stringer afterwards. "That's as low as you can probably go. When you are on the end of something like that you are rattled by it, but try not to dwell on it. It's out of my hands now."
In 2007 the then Sale fullback Daniel Larrachea was banned for the double whammy of spitting and leading with the head in a European game.