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Schmidt to smooth O'Connor's transition

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Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

JOE SCHMIDT will complete a full handover to incoming coach Matt O'Connor as part of a Leinster transitional process this summer.

The new Ireland coach did not meet with the Australian when he visited the province's UCD base last week to meet staff and senior players, but will be expected to debrief the new man who will be confirmed as coach on a three-year deal next week.

Manager Guy Easterby was tasked by Leinster to draw up a shortlist for the decision, which blindside Kevin McLaughlin this week described as "imperative" for the province's future.

O'Connor comes highly recommended after his spell in England and is a coach in the mould of Schmidt, taking charge of defence, attack and skills under the watchful eye of director of rugby Richard Cockerill at Welford Road.

While Leinster were keeping up the illusion that the new man remains a mystery at their press briefing yesterday, with Easterby saying nothing had yet been signed, it is an open secret that O'Connor is on his way. Schmidt is expected to help his accession to be as smooth as possible.

"I am sure Joe is very keen to leave us in as good a place as possible and he is also going to get the benefit of us continuing to be at the forefront of European rugby from an Ireland coach point of view," Easterby said.

"Certainly, we will get the benefit of Joe being at the top there and that consultation process with the provinces."

Although he wasn't prepared to name the cabal of players who were introduced to the new man, Easterby said that their input was welcome.

"There's a group of guys who are part of the leadership group appointed by the players," he said.

"They were senior players. And there were other people in the mix as well when Joe first came over. Because they are an experienced group, they have a good idea of the type of coach that will continue to move us forward."

The squad O'Connor inherits will not only be packed with European Cup winners, but also Lions, after Leinster shared the honour of having the most players selected for the tour with his current club Leicester.

Reflection

It was, Easterby believes, an honour for the province but also a reflection of the work they've done in recent years.

"We're proud of the guys who are selected, but also it is a great reflection on the environment and the competition here," he said.

"I was in contact with all the guys and one player in particular texted back to say thanks to Leinster for what we have done to help him get to where he is.

"That's an example of the culture we have here. That's the environment created by Cheiks, that Joe has brought on and the players know that they deserve great credit as individuals but also a credit to the environment that has been created here as well."

That environment has delivered ongoing success, now Easterby will be hoping he has picked the right man to continue it.

Irish Independent