Ireland coach Joe Schmidt signs and eyes bright future for Irish
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt finally put rumours over his future to bed yesterday with the news that he has extended his deal until after the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
The Kiwi, who has won two Six Nations in three years, would have been out of contract in June 2017 and had initially indicated he would make a decision about his future following the tour to South Africa last summer.
While it had been widely expected he would stay on, official confirmation yesterday that the former Leinster coach will be heading up the coaching ticket until the end of this World Cup cycle is an undeniable boost.
In a statement, Schmidt, who had previously said that his young son's epilepsy would play into his decision, thanked his bosses for allowing him to take all the time he needed.
"I'd like to thank the IRFU for their patience and confidence as the decision to continue took somewhat longer than I'd anticipated," said the 51-year-old.
"It is difficult at times being so far away from extended family but we appreciate how lucky we are to have the support we have here in Ireland.
"The wider community has made us welcome and as a family we have benefited immensely from their support.
"Looking forward there are positive signs with the U20s finalists at the Junior World Championships this year, the provinces topping three of the five European Champions Cup pools as well as Ulster and Leinster sharing the lead of the PRO12 at present.
"With the Guinness Series about to begin, facing a dominant New Zealand along with Canada and Australia is going to be a tremendous challenge."
After a hugely successful stint with Leinster where he won two Heineken Cups, Schmidt took the top job in 2013 following a nightmare end to the reign of Grand Slam winner Declan Kidney.
He has since won back-to-back Six Nations titles for Ireland for the first time since the 1940s, oversaw a first series win in Argentina and secured a maiden Test victory on South African soil. Schmidt can now chase more history.
With two games against his homeland next month, Ireland have still never beaten New Zealand while he will be determined to make the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time in 2019 having fallen at the last eight a year ago.
David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, said: "Joe is one of the leading coaches in world rugby and it is fantastic for Irish rugby that he has committed.
"We have a talented group of coaches and Joe has been central to attracting coaching talent and driving success with the national team."
Philip Browne, IRFU Chief Executive, added: "The IRFU are delighted to confirm that Joe will continue through to the next World Cup. Since coming to Ireland he has made a huge contribution to Irish rugby at provincial and national level and also actively supports our clubs across the four provinces."