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IRFU bid to keep Joe Schmidt as Ireland coach until 2019 Rugby World Cup

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

The IRFU have opened talks with Six Nations-winning Ireland coach Joe Schmidt with a view to securing the New Zealander's services until the 2019 World Cup.

Schmidt's current deal expires at the end of next season and he is likely to be in huge demand after delivering back-to-back Six Nations titles in his two Ireland campaigns to add to his Heineken Cup, Pro12 and Challenge Cup successes with Leinster.

Although they had their fingers burned when signing Eddie O'Sullivan up to an extension in the months before the disastrous 2007 World Cup campaign, the IRFU are aware that Schmidt is likely to be heavily in demand after the World Cup, and that the danger of a big French club offering a lucrative deal to Schmidt or the coach's head being turned by a return to New Zealand is a very real threat.

"We're in discussions with Joe," IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said yesterday. "He's just off the back of the Six Nations and he's been away and I'm sure those discussions will come to some sort of conclusion over the next couple of months.

"It will be what it will be, I'd like to have more to say about it and when we do we'll say it."

Meanwhile, Leinster fly-half Jimmy Gopperth has called on his team-mates to be ready for the fight of their lives against the "world-best" Toulon in the Champions Cup semi-final on Sunday.

"This is why I came to Leinster, to have the opportunity to win big trophies and if I get the opportunity this week then I'll be putting my body on the line and giving everything I've got," said the New Zealander, who will move to Wasps next season.

"The bouncing balls got us (last season). It was around the 50-60th minute when we had our own lineout, it got slapped back and then the ball was bobbling about. They kicked it through and it ended down the other end and they scored a try.

"It is those little scraps that we have to be hungry for. We've got to be first there and last year we weren't. They beat us to every little scrap of the ball.

"They're the most talked-about team in the world. The calibre is there, the experience is there and they seem to be enjoying it.

"They are in the south of France loving life and their rugby and when you are enjoying your rugby with the talent they have, then you have a formidable force."

Matt O'Connor is likely to stick closely to the side that beat Bath in the quarter-final when he names his team tomorrow.

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