Joe Schmidt likely to be on IRFU’s radar as union target ‘world-class’ successor to David Nucifora

Joe Schmidt will be on the IRFU's radar to replace David Nucifora. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Rúaidhrí O’Connor

IRFU chief executive Kevin Potts has confirmed that performance director David Nucifora is expected to leave the union next year and says finding the right replacement is “vitally important”.

Former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is likely to be on a list of suitable candidates for the role, with Potts conceding the union is looking for a “world -class” figure, with not many suitable candidates on the market.

Australian Nucifora was appointed to the then newly-created position in 2014 and has been the key decision-maker in terms of coaching appointments, player contracts and performance programmes for the men’s and women’s XVs and sevens teams.

Potts said finding a world-class successor for Nucifora is a major priority for him and added that plans are at an advanced stage, but he conceded that the pool of candidates with the requisite experience is quite small.

Schmidt is likely to be on the union’s radar when his time with the All Blacks comes to an end in November, while Rassie Erasmus is another who ticks the required boxes.

Potts said it is too early to speculate on names but that he and his team are working on finding the right person.

“He’ll be a hard act to follow, I think,” Potts said. “David has signalled that next year is probably when he’ll move on. I’m at an advanced stage of looking at transition planning with David. As part of the transition planning, we will obviously need to find a world-class successor.

“So, when we’re in a position to bring all of that together, we will publicly announce that. But for now, David’s focus is where we want it to be, which is on supporting our men in particular in their run-up to Rugby World Cup 2023, our sevens programmes are working really hard to try and achieve Olympic qualification, looking at future pathways and pipeline or playing opportunities for our U-20s and academy players.

“And what I don’t want them thinking about before Rugby World Cup is transition.

“So, it’s at an advanced stage in terms of our planning but, for now, David will get on with the excellent work that he’s doing and we will make announcements when we can later on in the year, I would say.

“It is a vitally important position for Irish rugby and it’s something we will and are taking very, very seriously.

“It’s finding the right person, someone who is world-class and has an ability to drive and develop, build on the massive success we’ve had.”