Sunday 18 February 2018

The All Blacks coach's recent comments could have a big bearing on Joe Schmidt's Ireland future

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

The almost yearlong rugby season has finally ended but this summer's hiatus could be even more important for IRFU than the 10 months of action that preceded it.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has a year to run on his contract but the Kiwi returned home for a summer holiday having stated that he will decide his future during his time away.

When he returns to game plan for a tough autumn period that sees the team take on the All Blacks (twice), Australia and Canada, we will know whether he will be staying in his role until the 2019 World Cup or if the IRFU need to seek a mid-cycle replacement.

Schmidt has said that he may return home primarily because of the health of his son Luke, who suffers from epilepsy, but the lure of coaching his home country could also be a factor.

Read more: 'You've made a mistake' - Luke Fitzgerald reveals chat with Joe Schmidt during World Cup

With Steve Hansen's contract set to run out at the same time as Schmidt's, there is a possibility that the former Leinster boss may be in the running for rugby's biggest job.

However, in an interview with BBC 5 Live yesterday, Hansen - who previously said he would likely step down next summer - has now rowed back on his earlier comments.

"I'm sure if we can sit down, something positive will come," Hansen said.

"But there's four things I've looked at. One is the family… is it right for them? Is it right for the team? Is it right for the [New Zealand] Rugby Union and can I still get up in the morning and motivate myself and the team to improve?

"So if I can't do all those things, I won't do it. If I still think I can do it and the players are keen on me to do it then I'll think about it."

If Hansen does extend his contract with the All Blacks until the next World Cup, then there is still the possibility that Schmidt may depart these shores to take up a Super Rugby job with the view to succeeding him.

The Highlanders job will become open in 2018, which would match up with the end of Schmidt's contract.

However, Irish fans will be hoping that the two-time Six Nations champion opts to ink a fresh extension to run until the World Cup in Japan.

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