Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Schmidt's ambitions could well stretch beyond taking the Ireland job

So it looks like Leinster coach Joe Schmidt is the clear favourite for the Ireland job.

If so, it is a big call to make. In fact, you might even call it a gamble.

Not for Ireland, but for Schmidt himself.

His recent rugby CV is as impressive as it gets – his influence along with Vern Cotter at Clermont both shaped and influenced the sustained success that the French superclub has enjoyed over the last few years.

Even with this year's Heineken Cup exit, his current rugby sojourn with Leinster has kept the players and punters happy.

His brand of rugby is smart, ambitious and well-balanced and has kept the brain cells and nerve endings of the intelligentsia like Brian O'Driscoll active.

He is clearly an ambitious man and seems destined for international coaching honours. The two outstanding questions are when and for which team?

The fact that Steve Hansen's contract as head coach of the All Blacks has been extended until after the 2015 Rugby World Cup gives Schmidt a window of opportunity elsewhere.

Timing may be a real concern for another mooted candidate, Reds coach Ewen McKenzie.

Current Australia coach Robbie Deans is under real pressure and were the British and Irish Lions to come away with a series victory in the summer, this might free up what would surely be his perfect job.

The name of Ireland's interim coach, Les Kiss, has also been mentioned.

His appointment may be the easiest for the IRFU in terms of already understanding the 'system' and one might then expect that many of the current support staff would be kept in place.

The 'system' is where the gamble lies for both Schmidt and McKenzie.

There are some very talented young players coming through and whoever gets the job needs to have the freedom to appoint his own coaching team and organise things the way he sees fit.

Whether this is palatable for the IRFU is another thing.

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