Joe Schmidt to put family first having given heart and soul to Ireland
Joe Schmidt's decision to leave his role as Ireland coach after next year's Rugby World Cup was well-flagged, but the revelation that he will retire from coaching altogether was a bombshell few outside his closest circle expected.
The IRFU confirmed yesterday that Englishman Andy Farrell will be promoted from his position of assistant coach at the end of the team's run in Japan when Schmidt and his family are expected to return to New Zealand.
There had been a lot of speculation that he would immediately be in the running to be the next All Blacks coach and his decision to effectively withdraw from that race has caused a major stir in his native land.
Schmidt has made the decision to "prioritise family commitments" and has spoken in recent weeks about the toll his job takes on his time.
His mother and eldest daughter Abby are both based in New Zealand, while his wife Kellie and their sons Tim and Luke and daughter Ella live in Dublin, where they moved in 2010 after Schmidt joined Leinster.
Speaking earlier this year, the coach said he intended to move back for a period of time so that he and Kellie can be closer to their parents.
Regardless of how Ireland fare at the World Cup in Japan, Schmidt will leave as Ireland's most successful coach having delivered three Six Nations titles in five seasons, including this year's Grand Slam, and a series of historic moments like the first win over New Zealand in Chicago in 2016.
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However, family has never been far from his mind and he has been an advocate for epilepsy sufferers when speaking about his son Luke's illness.
Ahead of his big decision, he spoke of the lack of work-life balance in his life.
"I guess I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to working. I tend to be a little bit of a workaholic and so if there's a competitive advantage that I can find that I can help players attain, then I'm going to be looking as hard as I possibly can," he said.
"That means that I'm out of the house a fair bit or even at home I'm plugging away, looking at things with a microscope. So that's probably a character flaw."
He will leave a lasting legacy and his announcement was greeted with a flow of tributes.
"Joe's contribution to Irish rugby is broader than just the success achieved with the national team," IRFU performance director David Nucifora said.
"He has had a hugely positive influence on the entire professional system with both his rugby intellect and his eagerness to invest in and develop both players and coaches throughout the country.
"In conversations with Joe, you got a clear sense that this was a very tough decision for him knowing how much he enjoys working with this group of coaches and players but it is a decision that Joe, Kellie and the kids have made as a family and that is to be respected.
"The next 11 months will include a really competitive Six Nations and a World Cup campaign, with Joe driving the standards that this group have demanded of themselves over the past five years.
"Regardless of what happens on the pitch over this period of time, we are all clearly aware and thankful of the better place that Joe will be leaving Irish rugby in."
Farrell, who played for England in rugby league and union, has been appointed to become Schmidt's successor until 2023.