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Confirmed: Joe Schmidt to leave Irish Rugby as Andy Farrell set to take over

Ireland’s head coach Joe Schmidt’s contract runs out next year (Niall Carson/PA)
Ireland’s head coach Joe Schmidt’s contract runs out next year (Niall Carson/PA)

Joe Schmidt will leave his position as Ireland head coach after next year's Rugby World Cup in Japan and finish coaching to focus on his family.

The Kiwi, who was crowned World Rugby Coach of the Year in Monte Carlo last night, has been toiling over the issue of his future in recent weeks.

The 53-year-old has guided Ireland to number two in the world rankings after a stellar 2018 which included a third ever Grand Slam, a series victory in Australia and a first win over the All Blacks on home soil but will not extend his contract beyond next year's tournament.

Current defence coach Andy Farrell will take over as head coach when Schmidt departs. Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster is expected to be part of the new ticket, filling the attacking void left by Schmidt's departure. He will draw alongside Farrell to, albeit with reversed roles, renew a partnership that led England from 2012 to 2015, suffering a pool stage exit from the 2015 Rugby World Cup. After helping Leinster to the Champions Cup earlier this year, Lancaster was hailed by Dan Leavy for overseeing a 'revolution' in the province since his arrival in September 2016.

Current forwards coach Simon Easterby and skills coach Richie Murphy are both under contract until the summer of 2020. However, scrum coach Greg Feek has already announced that Japan will be his swansong with the national side.

What Schmidt does next is less clear. All Blacks boss Steve Hansen is another with a big announcement on his post-World Cup plans due. Should he walk away too, there is natural feeling that Schmidt would be the man to take over, his beating of his homeland last week acting as a quasi job interview.

With Schmidt again stressing that family is his prime motivation, whether he would want the hassle of the unparalleled scrutiny that comes with world rugby’s most high pressure position remains to be seen.

Ireland are among the leading favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy next year in Japan and Schmidt will be hoping to bring the curtain down on his six-and-a-half year reign as Ireland boss with a first ever semi-final appearance in the blue riband event at least.

Announcing his decision, he said: "I have decided to finish coaching and will prioritise family commitments after the RWC in 2019.

"I feel that Irish rugby is in good hands. The management and players have been incredible to work with and the tremendous support we have had, particularly at home in the Aviva, but where ever we have travelled has been uplifting.

"Thank you to the IRFU for their support and patience and thanks also to so many people who have adopted my family and me, making us feel part of the community here in Ireland.

"There are some inspiring challenges over the next 11 months so there's plenty of motivation for me to continue working hard, alongside the other management staff, so that the team can be as competitive as possible."

On taking over from Schmidt, Farrell said: "It is a privilege to be considered for such a prestigious role. I have learned a lot from Joe over the past few seasons and I will continue to learn from him over the next year as the coaching group and players focus on competing in two huge tournaments in 2019."

Schmidt added: "The coaches have been fantastic to work with and Andy has made a big impact since coming into the group. His ability to lead and his understanding of the game will ensure that the group will continue to move forward."

Philip Browne, IRFU Chief Executive, said: "We are delighted to have secured Andy as in-coming Head Coach. As part of Joe's management team Andy has already helped to deliver huge performances and I know he will continue to inspire our players for years to come. Andy has world class coaching credentials and we are pleased to have a roadmap for an orderly transition post Rugby World Cup to the 2019 Six Nations."

David Nucifora, IRFU High Performance Director added: "We are incredibly fortunate to have a coach of the calibre of Andy Farrell in Irish Rugby. He has proven through his work ethic and success with Ireland and the Lions over the last number of years that he is the person to take Irish Rugby forward after RWC 2019. The close working relationship that our current coaching group have and what they will continue to gain over the next year with Joe still at the helm leaves Andy and Irish Rugby in the enviable position of having continuity before building the road forward.

"This appointment provides certainty and continuity beyond RWC19 with Andy leading the coaching group through the next World Cup cycle to the 2023 tournament in France. The coaching group are contracted beyond next year's World Cup which again provides continuity for the players ahead of the 2020 6 Nations Championship."

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