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'There is no certainty' admits Easterby

With few in Irish rugby quite certain as to what may happen next in the quest for a new Irish coach – the IRFU chief amongst that growing number – Leinster supporters could be forgiven for a growing anxiety when it comes to the future of their beloved Joe Schmidt.

Presuming that the suits in Lansdowne Road have indeed engaged the best professional minds in global recruitment, as opposed to spinning a Rolodex and engaging a solicitor, the Leinster coach will surely top the list of potential candidates.

Which begs the question: why the need for the "professional consultant", so eagerly expressed on the airwaves but damningly omitted from the IRFU's own official communique?

In any event, the IRFU already pay Schmidt's wages, so the paperwork wouldn't be all that onerous; all it needs is some smart boy to hop on a DART, walk through the UCD campus and show the Kiwi the dotted line.

If only things were that simple. Still, Leinster could find themselves in a pickle if their head man is suddenly whisked down the Stillorgan dual carriageway any day or week soon. The uncertainty is palpable.

"Not at the moment," says Leinster manager Guy Easterby, when asked whether the club have a contingency plan drawn up if Schmidt is persuaded to bump up his IRFU job spec. "The contingency plan as it stands at the moment is that Joe's contract is up at the end of June 2014, so there is a contingency plan in terms of that.

"Ideally, we would like Joe to stay on longer, but he will have a decision to make then in terms of what he wants to do and where he wants to be.

"I'm not sure what you can do at the moment. You could ring around a couple of people and say, 'are you available? We might need you, we might not'.

"Because there is no certainty. (Kidney's departure) was only announced on Tuesday. No one was really sure what way it was going to go. There was obviously a lot of talk that Declan wouldn't be kept on but the only thing that is certain now is that Declan isn't going to be there. Who will be there is up in the air."

Leinster captain Leo Cullen, slowly put out to pasture by Kidney but eager for an unlikely recall – "never say never, I'm available, the phone is still on" – cuts to the chase.

"He is in the system. It wouldn't take them that much work to find out why he is the coach he is. We will wait and see.

"Joe is obviously a very sought-after coach. He's had a good record in his time here and he would be a hard man to replace if he did go.

"There hasn't really been much talk about it amongst the players. There has been a little bit of 'oh, there is going to be a new Ireland coach' chat going on, but I don't know if people are necessarily connecting the dots with Joe. He is in contract with us for this season and next season and that is all we can concentrate on.

"It is not going to affect us this season even if he was to move on. It is not going to affect the next potentially eight-week block this season. That is a very short amount of time for us to focus on.

"If we don't win this weekend in our Challenge Cup quarter-final (against Wasps), we have two more free weekends before the end of the season, so we just need to keep winning games.

"But listen, Joe is a very good coach. No matter what team he'd coach I think he'd do a pretty good job."

Is he the best coach Cullen has ever played under? The 35-year-old demurs momentarily.

"The job of a head coach is so difficult," offers the second-row. "There are so many different facets and everyone has their strengths and weaknesses to a certain degree. He's a pretty good package. I'd never say the best, you know, because I've had some very good coaches."

Anyway, as Cullen jokes, he may yet have a new coach to flatter in what promises to be his final year in professional rugby.

For, as he freely admits, all players are selfish and, ultimately, despite all the hand-wringing sentiment and mealy-mouthed pronouncements, they will look after No 1 regardless of whose name is on the coach's door.

Cullen, who admitted to thinking long and hard about whether to prolong his career by another season after signing a one-year contract extension, exposes the myths of the often fawning, fake sympathy delivered by players when there is a change in coaching regime.

"The guys that have been getting picked by the coaches are probably a bit, eh, uncertain," he smiles, when asked what the reaction amongst Irish professionals might be to Kidney's exit.

"The guys who hadn't been getting picked are probably pretty happy because they see change as potential improvement for their own situation!

"Quite often that is the situation with players because sports people are by nature probably selfish individuals. It depends. Every situation is completely different. Everyone has preconceived ideas of what is potentially coming in.

"The big thing with a new coach is that it is, in theory, a clean slate and he will treat everyone in the group as equal, and everyone is fighting from the same position from the start. But every new season should be like that anyway."

It's just that right now, uncertainty lingers at Leinster as to what next season may bring.

Irish Independent