Monday 10 December 2018

Schmidt cancels press 'huddle'

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: PA
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: PA

For the first time since he took over as Ireland coach in 2013, Joe Schmidt cancelled his briefing with journalists representing the daily newspapers after Saturday's win over Italy.

No official reason was given by the IRFU, who communicated the head coach's decision through the Rugby Writers of Ireland (RWI) on Saturday morning, but it is understood that the coach is unhappy with elements of recent coverage and has never been a fan of the 'huddle' format - in which journalists gather around him in a corridor under the stand at Lansdowne Road.

Schmidt is obliged to talk to rights-holding broadcasters and hold a 15-minute press conference after matches, but for 51 internationals in charge - plus a game against the Barbarians in 2015 - he has held a separate briefing with daily journalists; the contents of which are not printed until Monday morning.

It offers the coach a chance to set the agenda ahead of the next game and move the narrative on, but he has chosen to forego that opportunity.

The 'huddle' pre-existed Schmidt's time in charge and is a common practice for coaches across the Six Nations. England's Eddie Jones and Wales' Warren Gatland held embargoed briefings after their game on Saturday, while New Zealand's Steve Hansen conducts Sunday morning press conferences after Saturday Tests.

Relations between the union and the journalists covering the national team are at an all-time low as a result of the decision of Schmidt, who has been steadily reducing media access to the team in recent seasons.

The IRFU met with members of the RWI twice in recent weeks to try and find a solution in which a number of alternatives were discussed, but no accommodation could be found.

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