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Connacht boss Pat Lam hoping Joe Schmidt stays on as Ireland head coach

Published 23/08/2016

Connacht head coach Pat Lam is not looking to replace Joe Schmidt in the Ireland hotseat
Connacht head coach Pat Lam is not looking to replace Joe Schmidt in the Ireland hotseat

Joe Schmidt does not need to hurry the decision over his long-term Ireland future, according to Connacht coach Pat Lam.

Schmidt is due to inform the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) whether he will take up a contract extension to lead Ireland into World Cup 2019.

The 50-year-old head coach's current contract expires next summer, and he could yet return to his native New Zealand to take up a Super Rugby job.

Connacht boss Lam has been touted as a potential successor with Ireland, but the former Samoa back-row forward admits he wants Schmidt to stay put.

"It's a big decision, there shouldn't be any rush there," said Lam of Schmidt's call on whether to remain at Ireland's helm.

"It's totally up to Joe. It's nothing to do with me.

"My focus is completely on Connacht, the expectations are so high.

"Everyone in Ireland including myself would like Joe to stay and continue the work he's doing.

"The secret of Irish rugby's success is that the provinces and the IRFU, we're all aligned.

"And our role for Connacht Rugby is to be in the top level of European rugby, to have more players playing for Ireland and to have a good representation of indigenous Connacht players.

"So being able to work closely with Joe and to make sure we can provide him a platform of players to play for Ireland is crucial.

"So I see our role in that is just as crucial as the other three provinces."

Connacht won last term's Guinness PRO12 title with the league's smallest budget, leaving Lam hailed as one of the top coaching minds operating in Europe.

Guinness have extended their PRO12 sponsorship until 2020, while the 2017 final will be held at Dublin's Aviva Stadium.

Connacht's success last term led to seven of the province's top stars touring South Africa with Ireland in the summer, and Lam admitted the challenge now is for him to propel the Galway set-up even further forward.

Insisting the continued speculation around Schmidt's future will not hinder Connacht at all, Lam said: "If you think about that back end of the season, everyone said 'well they will fall over soon, can they make the top four? can they make the final? there's no chance they can win it'.

"That was all an education for our players around focusing on the job, focusing on what we do in training, and the weekend being a celebration of everything we've done.

"That's great preparation to go into this season when we know there's greater expectation, we know everyone's recruiting well.

"The only thing we can control is what we do in training.

"It's all about controlling what we do.

"On our first day back in pre-season training we put the PRO12 trophy at the front, and just talked about what it represented.

"And that's hard work.

"It was only an outcome of the hard work from not only the team but the whole organisation.

"But it's now part of history.

"I wanted to emphasise that wasn't the end, this is a continuation of where we want to go."

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