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Schmidt stumbling block


Leinster coach Joe Schmidt

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt

JOE Schmidt's bid for the Ireland head coach's job could become caught up in IRFU red tape.

While Schmidt is the clear favourite to succeed Declan Kidney, an IRFU tradition is a cause of some concern to the straight-talking Kiwi. The practice of the head coach presenting his plans for the next day's international match to the National Team Review Group (NTRG) is in danger of proving an obstacle to his candidacy.

At his interview, the current Leinster coach will be asked to put forward his plans for the 2015 World Cup and beyond. However, he will also have some queries of his own – particularly in relation to the custom of the coach's plans being second-guessed at committee level.

Schmidt is understood not to be keen on the practice and could seek the abandonment of the process entirely as a condition of his employment.

At the very least, he is likely to seek assurances the tradition will be radically overhauled.

If the IRFU are set on appointing Schmidt, they could be persuaded to broker a compromise on the issue. Interestingly, some members of the NTRG group are believed to be on the interview panel.

The list of interviewees for the position has become the most successfully guarded secret in the IRFU, with only chief executive Philip Browne and those members of the interview panel privy to the identities.

Schmidt (left) himself confirmed that he has been asked to interview for the position. Les Kiss is the only other confirmed name on the list and it is accepted that the final choice will be between them.

Saracens coach Mark McCall and Ireland U-20's coach Mike Ruddock have also been mentioned as possible interviewees.

Two of those among the early favourites for the position, Jake White and Ewen McKenzie, are not scheduled for interview this week, although it has been suggested they were interviewed via video-conference. The pair will be going head-to-head in the Super 15 tomorrow when McKenzie's Queensland Reds host White's Brumbies at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

White never declared an interest in the Irish post publicly, but is known to have given the prospect of replacing Kidney some thought and sought counsel on the potential of Ireland's team.

McKenzie did declare an interest in interviewing for the position, but his ambitions clearly lie elsewhere.

Both he and White have their sights set on replacing Robbie Deans as Australia's coach.

It is believed Deans is running out of time to solve Australia's consistency issues and new ARU CEO Bill Pulver might be in the mood to make a change after the Lions tour this summer.

If that is the case then White and McKenzie will go head-to-head for the position. McKenzie turned the pressure on Deans when he announced he will be leaving the Reds at the end of the Super 15 season to pursue a Test career. At the time, the Queensland Reds director of coaching insisted he was simply giving his club the chance to find a suitable successor. It is understood, though, that he has been pressurising Pulver for some succession guarantee.

That hasn't been forthcoming and while there will certainly be other candidates should the Australia post become vacant after the Lions tour, it looks like being a two-horse race between White and McKenzie.

Meanwhile, the IRFU's interview process comes to a close today and an announcement is expected before the end of next week. If, as expected, Schmidt is appointed it is entirely possible he will seek to keep Kiss involved as defensive coach.

Irish Independent