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Joe Schmidt poised to extend Leinster stay


Joe Schmidt at Leinster training this week

Joe Schmidt at Leinster training this week

Joe Schmidt at Leinster training this week

LEINSTER coach Joe Schmidt is on the verge of committing his short-term future to the Heineken Cup champions by signing a new contract within the next week.

As Leinster went global yesterday by signing a money-spinning, seven-figure deal with Dublin's Conrad Hotel, Schmidt is believed to have already agreed the terms of a new deal with the province.

There is no professional barrier to the contract being signed, but the hugely effective Kiwi coach, who has helped Leinster compile back-to-back European triumphs, still needs to finalise some family details.

Flying Fijian wing Isa Nacewa, whose professional association with Schmidt began when the pair were united at the Auckland Blues seven years ago, is eager for the man he calls 'Mr Rugby' to extend his sojourn in Ireland.


"We all want him to be here but obviously he has family issues that the whole team would understand if he wasn't going to be here," said Nacewa. "But he has had such a positive influence on every player that we want him to stay.

"Joe, even from my time in New Zealand, is constantly challenging you personally and he has high expectations of everyone, from Academy players, young players, up to older players. It's probably what brings out the best in the team."

The Conrad Hotel's significant financial commitment to the European champions would appear to indicate that Schmidt will be going nowhere, although Leinster would be foolish not to insert a get-out clause should the IRFU come calling once Declan Kidney's tenure ends next year.

For his own part, Schmidt was remaining quietly confident that the process can be completed as smoothly as possible.

"Leinster is a super place to be," he said. "We're really close to a deal and I would really like to continue coaching here.

"To be honest, though, there are factors outside of rugby at the moment that we need to get comfortable with first of all.

"What I can say is that I'm not looking for any other job. If it doesn't continue it won't be because I'm looking for any other job. It would just be more a family decision than a coaching one.

"I'd like to say that by this time next week, I'll be in a position to say that I think I'll still be here next season. I'd like to think that's where we'll end up. I just don't like to say it categorically yet because we're just trying to find our feet with some other issues."

Loyal supporters will undoubtedly echo the squad's sentiments when the RDS hosts its first Pro12 encounter of the season tomorrow night against Dragons.

Leinster have been rocked by three long-term injuries ahead of the game. Flanker Dominic Ryan (ankle, three months), scrum-half Isaac Boss (elbow, two months) and hooker Aaron Dundon (foot, two months) will be sidelined for all of Leinster's opening four Heineken Cup pool games.

The trio join other long-term injury victims Sean O'Brien, Rhys Ruddock, Luke Fitzgerald, David Kearney and Eoin O'Malley on the sidelines as Leinster seek to kick-start their season following last Saturday's embarrassing reverse in Llanelli.

"It's incredibly frustrating for us and for Dominic," said Schmidt. "The internationals are not due back yet and, with Sean and Rhys out injured, it has certainly put a massive strain on our resources."

The good news for Schmidt is that the Irish management will almost certainly allow him pitch hooker Sean Cronin into action ahead of schedule.

The alternative would be to play Cian Healy there -- the former shot putter has thrown the ball into line-outs before, but Irish bosses would hardly risk deploying a key prop-forward in such a manner ahead of November's desperate World Cup seeding scramble.

"With a couple of knocks at hooker, Sean may well be available and that would help us," added Schmidt.

"Sean didn't start on the field with us until this week, so it's not an ideal situation but we're hoping he will be available.

"Richardt Strauss is in pretty good shape so we will give him enough time as possible to prepare."

Irish Independent