Schmidt coy on future as he leaves door open on potential All Blacks role
Hours after it emerged that New Zealand Rugby (NZR) approached Joe Schmidt last year about taking on a role within the current All Blacks coaching set-up, the outgoing Ireland head coach admitted that he would "never say never" about taking on a future role with his home country.
Schmidt will end his tenure with Ireland following next year's World Cup and while it still appears almost certain that he will take time out and spend it with his family, the 53-year-old dropped a hint that he would not remain out of the game permanently.
The Ireland head coach will be in huge demand next year and after rejecting advances from the All Blacks in favour of bringing Ireland to the World Cup, it remains to be seen if he will be able to be as firm further down the line.
Furthermore, there has been some suggestion in New Zealand that Steve Hansen could stay on as All Blacks boss until 2021, which would, in theory at least, allow Schmidt time with his family before a possible return.
"I would say it is difficult not to stay where I am," Schmidt said after picking up the Philips Lighting Manager of the Year award for the second time.
"It's difficult not to keep doing what I am doing with a fantastic group of people.
"Whatever decision you make you never say never but you are always trying to be the best you can in a very short term you have left. For me that's 11 months. I'm not looking any more forward than that.
"For me, there is the older generation and my son the younger generation that will take up a lot of time in those 12 months post finishing.
"I'm looking forward to that as a different sort of challenge because I don't get home very often. I'm away a lot and in the coming year I'm going to be out of the home for more days than I am in the home.
"It's a tough enough decision to come to terms with. For me I'm just fully focused on the next 11 months. It couldn't be a bigger 11 months for us.
"We've got England in seven and a half weeks. I'm pretty good at shortening the focus. As a group we just want to roll our sleeves up and stay as competitive as we can."
NZR chief executive Steve Tew confirmed that Schmidt turned down the All Blacks, which in itself is indicative of how highly he is valued back home.
Schmidt did, however, admit that the last five years had been straining for him and his family.
"I think that's part of it - part of it is I think we have a great group of coaches," he added.
"I always feel guilty getting awards like that because it is very much a team effort, a team behind the team, that's not only the coaches, the physios, the analysts, logistics, nutritionists.
"There are so many involved in the jigsaw puzzle that needs to come together to paint the picture that allows the players to be as effective as they can be. We are in a good place from that perspective.
"With Simon (Easterby) and Andy (Farrell) and Richie (Murphy) - they are so competent. I think they will do a great job. There are all sorts of up-sides to it.
"So you don't look too far ahead but a lot of people are talking about some tournament at the end of the year...that's too scary for me at this stage
"I'll just stay with a short-term focus on the Six Nations and we'll try to negotiate our way through that.