'We'd love him to stay' - IRFU hopeful but braced for Joe Schmidt departure
The IRFU remain hopeful that Joe Schmidt will extend his contract until the 2019 World Cup - and they are confident that if he does decide to return to New Zealand, they are well equipped to cope with his loss.
Schmidt is currently weighing up whether to extend his contract that runs until June 2017 and the IRFU expect him to inform them of his decision in the coming weeks.
Super Rugby outfits the Highlanders and Chiefs have both publicly stated that Schmidt is on their radar but IRFU CEO Philip Browne has made it clear that if the Kiwi does return home, it won't be for financial reasons.
"Joe is here until the end of the summer tour next year, at a minimum," Browne stressed.
"Hopefully longer than that. It gives us a good window of opportunity to sort something out if it arises. I can't shed any light on it at all, other than Joe knows exactly what our position is. We'd love him to stay.
"I don't think it's a matter of finance. Joe is from New Zealand, he has family in New Zealand and he has to take all of those things into consideration. At the end of the day, we'll have to wait until Joe comes back. We'll have conversations, no doubt, and things will become more clear."
Should Schmidt leave next summer, Browne didn't rule out appointing a replacement from outside of the system but he remains fully confident in the quality of coaches within it.
"I don't think it's a worry. We have a lot of good coaches in the system at the moment and there's a number of very good coaches with an Irish background abroad," he said. "So we're probably in a better place than we've ever been in terms of coaching talent. We have views of what sort of coach we might want. The key is that the proof is in the eating, if you've good quality coaching and coaches it makes a significant difference."