Joe Schmidt extends stay as Ireland head coach
Joe Schmidt has committed his future as Ireland head coach until the end of the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) made the announcement on Monday, 12 days before Ireland's autumn series opener against New Zealand in Chicago.
New Zealander Schmidt took charge of Ireland in November 2013, since when he has masterminded back-to-back Six Nations titles, plus away victories over South Africa and Argentina.
In a statement released by the IRFU, 51-year-old Schmidt thanked the organisation for showing "patience and confidence."
Schmidt said: "I would like to thank the IRFU for their patience and confidence, as the decision to continue took somewhat longer than I'd anticipated.
"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 strength of the rugby community has been incredibly visible over the past week, and the enthusiasm of management and players to improve and compete is complemented by a really positive camaraderie.
"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 team, along with Canada and Australia, is going to be a tremendous challenge."
Under Schmidt, Ireland won the Six Nations in 2014 and 2015, claimed a Test series triumph in Argentina and latterly toppled the Springboks.
IRFU performance director David Nucifora added: "J oe is one of the leading coaches in world rugby, and it is fantastic for Irish rugby that he has committed until the end of the World Cup cycle.
"We have a talented group of coaches, and Joe has been central to attracting coaching talent and driving success with the national team."
And IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said: "T he IRFU is 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."