Wednesday 17 July 2019

Schmidt and Gatland play hot potato with Lions job

Joe Schmidt (Photo: SPORTSFILE)
Joe Schmidt (Photo: SPORTSFILE)

Nick Purewal

Joe Schmidt insists he cannot currently be considered to lead the Lions in New Zealand in 2017 because of the constraints of his Ireland contract.

Schmidt revealed that his current contract does not allow him to take the year-long sabbatical the Lions require in the build-up to the 2017 tour.

New Zealander Schmidt and compatriot and Wales boss Warren Gatland are the front-runners to lead the Lions.

Gatland remains the favourite, and Schmidt downplayed his chances - though did not discuss whether he has talked to the IRFU about a possible release.

"The terms of my current contract don't allow me to do the Lions, so it's actually a moot point," said Schmidt of his chances of leading the Lions.

"It doesn't distract me because it isn't actually something I can unless the terms of my contract change.

"I finish at that time and there's some outside influences that will probably dictate anything beyond that. So I'm not planning for beyond where my contract finishes. And if you're a coach sometimes you don't even get to the finish of it because that's the harsh reality, it's a very success-driven environment."

Schmidt's Ireland contract expires at the end of June 2017, just as the Lions would be looking to head on tour.

There is no suggestion Schmidt would be constrained by his Ireland role of joining the Lions' backroom staff, however.

And that leaves open the potential for Schmidt to work under Gatland, who joked that the Ireland boss could "have the job if he wants it" with the first tour match against a New Zealand Provincial XV just one week after the Premiership and Pro12 finals

"Have you seen the schedule? He can have it," joked Gatland. "It's a really tough tour. I'm not saying the Lions can't win, it's just a tough schedule."

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