O'Connell: It's vital Schmidt stays to guide Ireland into next World Cup
Paul O'Connell has backed his former coach Joe Schmidt as the man to lead Ireland into the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
And while the former Munster great has no immediate plans to become involved in coaching himself, he does see reasons to be confident about the future of Irish coaching, despite most of its leading roles being held by overseas coaches.
"Hopefully Joe stays on," said O'Connell, after yesterday's Irish Independent revealed exclusively that the 50-year-old has committed to his future here in discussions with several senior players.
"It's really important that he stays on because he is creating great players and his coaching staff are excellent. He is making players become better but he is also making coaches become better as well, which is hugely important.
"There probably hasn't been a surplus of home-grown coaches but it could be a bit of a delayed reaction.
"You see Neil Doak serving an apprenticeship in Ulster, Anthony Foley is getting a masters degree in it now, all the ups and downs of coaching.
"And there are a lot of players who have finished playing who are getting into it and starting their careers, whether it is Felix Jones or Girvan Dempsey, and they will be very good.
"Guys who have been under Joe's influence will make very good coaches. I wouldn't say it's easy to coach like Joe, but his system is very easy to replicate.
"A lot of coaches use gut instinct and emotional intelligence. It's hard to copy that. But someone who has really good systems and methods, it's easier to copy that and Joe's are the best around."
While former team-mate Foley was struggling at Munster last season, before being superseded by South African Rassie Erasmus, there was a strong wave of support in some quarters for O'Connell and Ronan O'Gara to form a "dream team" coaching ticket at some stage.
However, O'Connell (left), whose last professional appearance ended in injury at the World Cup against France 11 months ago, is not in a rush to get into coaching aside from his current part-time advisory role with the Munster Academy.
"It does appeal to me. But. I'm just not 100pc sure if it's for me yet," he said. "And this gives me the best of both worlds, to dip the toe in, at a lower profile and it gives me the chance to look over the fence at other things.
"I've been on the rugby treadmill for 15 years. And while I didn't want to get completely off it, I wanted a break from it, and the Academy role suits me."