Friday 21 October 2016

Joe Schmidt reveals IRFU contract won't allow him to coach the British and Irish Lions next year

Published 27/01/2016 | 11:40

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt in attendance at the RBS Six Nations launch. The Hurlingham Club, Ranelagh Gardens, London, England. Picture credit: Paul Harding / SPORTSFILE
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt in attendance at the RBS Six Nations launch. The Hurlingham Club, Ranelagh Gardens, London, England. Picture credit: Paul Harding / SPORTSFILE

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt will not be in charge of the British and Irish Lions for their trip to his native New Zealand next year.

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Speaking at the official launch of the RBS Six Nations in London, the Kiwi revealed that his contract with the IRFU, which expires in 2017, does not allow him to take up the role.

"The Lions doesn’t enter my mind. We are a week to week team and that’s a long time away. It’s not something I think about," he said.

"We’re about being the best we can be. That’s our full focus for players and coaches. The Lions is actually a moot point. It’s not something I can do unless the terms of my contract change.

"There are some outside influences on that which would dictate things. I don’t plan on beyond my current contract. Sometimes as a coach you don’t get beyond your current contract."

Read more: 'Joe Schmidt can have the Lions job if he wants' - Wales boss Warren Gatland

Read more: Joe Schmidt hits back at claims of 'exodus' of Irish players to England and France

Schmidt was viewed as the main rival to Warren Gatland for the position.

Gatland, the Wales coach who oversaw the Lions' 2-1 Test series victory against Australia in 2013, is almost certain to head up the shortlist for the coach's job.

The Lions board are to draw up a shortlist at the end of the home unions' summer tours this year, with an appointment expected by the end of August or early September.

The Lions board hope that the head coach will take up his appointment with immediate effect, although they are open to some flexibility that could involve the coach retaining some involvement with their national side during the autumn Test series, as Gatland did in 2012.

Schmidt's current Ireland contract expires at the end of June 2017, just as the Lions would be looking to head on tour.

There is no suggestion Schmidt would be constrained by his Ireland role from joining the Lions' backroom staff, however.

And that leaves open the potential for Schmidt to work under Gatland, who led the Lions to their 2013 series win in Australia.

Gatland already has a clause in his contract allowing for a sabbatical next year, and Rob Howley led Wales in the Kiwi boss' absence in the lead-up to the 2013 Lions tour.

Meanwhile, Schmidt revealed that Jonathan Sexton will be fit and available for Ireland's Six Nations opener against Wales on February 7 despite suffering a head inury in the 51-10 defeat to Wasps last weekend.

"Johnny trained really well yesterday. He has passed all the protocols. It was this time last year where he had the problem and took a break," he added.

"Since then he’s had no head injuries so as far as we and he are concerned he’s ready to go. I’m always concerned. We treat head injuries with the respect they deserve.

"They identified Johnny needed a rest and that’s to our advantage really. All we can do is go on the best medical decision we have. When they give him the all clear we have trust in him.

"They’re the experts and if people question that it’s a disappointment. No one is going to have the same opinion but you get the best qualified people to make the assessment. He trained really well yesterday. There was no contact apart from with the wind which pretty much blew everyone over."

On the challenge that Wales will present on February 7, Schmidt said: "I’m only a spectator in the Wales environment but I thought they did well in the World Cup. Who would have thought that against England Wales would pick themselves up off the floor to win.

"They’re the squad with the biggest continuity and experience. They have over 1100 caps and they’ve very tough. They were the biggest team at the World Cup so they have that physical dominance they can impact on teams.

"I don’t think people could not have been impressed by Dan Biggar at the World Cup. Gareth Davies was brilliant too and that doesn’t count the other experienced players. I don’t count experience. I’m not giving an opinion on who is favourite or not. I’m just talking about Wales and facts about them. They’re an incredibly tough team.

"I was talking to Sam Warburton this morning and this is his fifth time here. We don’t talk about what our chances are or what Wales’ chances are."

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