Joe Schmidt to make 2019 World Cup decision after Ireland's trip to South Africa
Joe Schmidt will decide whether he will coach Ireland to Rugby World Cup 2019 after this summer's tour to South Africa.
Head coach Schmidt's current Ireland contract runs until summer 2017, when the former Leinster boss' services will be in high demand.
Ireland will be keen to keep Schmidt at the helm after the 50-year-old has overseen two Six Nations victories in three years.
Schmidt could yet seek a Super Rugby coaching role in his native New Zealand and start a lengthy quest to coach the All Blacks, if he chooses not to extend his current Ireland deal however.
"That's something I've committed to making a decision on once we get back from Africa really," said Schmidt, when asked if he will coach Ireland to Japan 2019.
"It's really important that there is a clear pathway for players to know that there's some continuity there, or if that continuity is going to be with someone else, that there's a span of enough time that they can get the game up and running as they see it best being played.
"I am conscious of my responsibility there."
Schmidt explained the decision on his long-term coaching future would boil down to far more than simply the enjoyment factor he garners from leading Ireland.
His son Luke suffers from epilepsy and Schmidt suggested his next move will have as much to do with what best suits his family as anything else.
"There's some factors outside of rugby that tend to dictate for me," said Schmidt.
"We'll be a little bit further down the track with some of those decisions as well."
Ireland can salvage a third-place finish from their lacklustre Six Nations with victory over Scotland in Dublin on Saturday.
Schmidt's men drew with Wales and lost in France and England before thumping Italy 58-15 last weekend.
Now Ireland will fight it out for third place with the Scots, with Schmidt hailing his good friend Vern Cotter for transforming this weekend's Aviva Stadium visitors.
"You couldn't get a better group of young men to work with, and the mix has changed a bit this year," said Schmidt.
"We're going to go out on the weekend and play with about half as many caps as last time we played Scotland.
"Those things change but at the same time you can still get pretty excited about what the future might hold.
"You just want to get a good finish now and I know Vern will feel the same way.
"They control their own destiny with that third placing, they have a very good chance of finishing third and that would be a step forward.
"And it would be representative of the progress that they've made.
"That was evident through the World Cup but it's been consolidated in this championship."