Friday 22 September 2017

Smal, Foley face exit as Schmidt lines up 'tight-knit' back-room team

Ireland forwards coach Gert Smal
Ireland forwards coach Gert Smal
Anthony Foley

Ruaidhri O'Connor in Toronto

JOE SCHMIDT already has a coaching ticket in mind and hopes to have it finalised by July.

The new Ireland head coach's staff will be smaller than predecessor Declan Kidney's, with Les Kiss remaining on. Forwards coach Gert Smal and defence coach Anthony Foley are not expected to be retained, while kicking coach Mark Tainton has already left and scrum coach Greg Feek's future is uncertain.

Recruiting a forwards coach is the top priority for the New Zealander, who worked with Jono Gibbes during his time at Leinster.

A number of his targets are under contract, so Schmidt is unsure when he'll be able to announce his back-room team but is confident of having the right men in place well ahead of the November internationals against Samoa, Australia and New Zealand.

"I can tell you I'm working pretty hard at it, I've had discussions. I think (I'll have it in place) by the end of July. Now that's when I might know, but I might not have the people – some may need to extricate themselves – but the people I've spoken to have all indicated that they'd be interested," he said.

"In a perfect world, July would be great, then get some confirmation by August, then you've got September, October to lead into some planning.

"I'd like the team to be a little bit smaller than the previous coaching team, so we've got a tight-knit unit really.

"I like the number that I've worked with in previous years. At Clermont it was just myself, Vern Cotter and Alex King, so it was a very small group – I like the fact that then it's a pretty tight circle.

"People aren't then scrambling for time, it's easier to have a little bit more clarity."

With Kiss taking charge of Ireland's North American tour, Schmidt maintains he is in Toronto on a watching brief only, ahead of Saturday's meeting with Canada.

"I'm really here as an observer," he said. "I've been in the meetings and at training. I've had the opportunity to talk to the other coaches and get their feedback on how players are going."

Irish Independent

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