Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt confirmed on Monday that he is set to depart his role with the IRFU following next year’s World Cup in Japan.
The former Leinster boss had been toying with a decision for the last few months but has finally announced his intentions to bow out after a wildly successful period at the helm of Irish rugby. Andy Farrell will take over from the New Zealander.
Schmidt, who took over as Ireland head coach in 2013, led the national team to three 6 Nations titles, including two Grand Slams; the last one a blockbusting 2018 campaign that culminated in a historic win at Twickenham.
Schmidt confirmed his intentions to step down via an official IRFU statement on Monday.
“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.”
Schmidt’s charges have enjoyed a stunning 2018 and were named World Rugby Team of the Year following eleven wins in twelves outings, including a series win against Australia and an emphatic victory over try-less New Zealand.
Andy Farrell commented,
“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.”
Philip Browne, IRFU CEO, commented,
“I would like to thank Joe, and his family, on behalf of the IRFU Union Committee, all the staff of Irish Rugby and every rugby supporter, for everything he has done for the game in Ireland.
“Joe has travelled to clubs throughout the country, assisted with our sponsor programme and attended a huge number of charity events, helping to raise vital funding for those who need it most.
Sport has the ability to lift people out of the day-to-day concerns of life and Joe, and his team, have provided historic moments of great joy, that will live long in the memories of everyone in the rugby family.
Of course, this is not yet the end, and we look forward an exciting and challenging 11 months for Irish Rugby during Joe’s final Six Nations and the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
On a personal level, I would like to thank Joe for his warmth, his time, honesty and his genuine interest in everything that we do in Irish Rugby to grow the game.”
Schmidt himself was named World Rugby Coach of the Year at the glamorous awards ceremony in Monaco on Sunday, where Ireland celebrated a hat-trick of awards; Johnny Sexton finally being recognised for his outstanding performances with the World Rugby Player of the Year award.
David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director commented,
“Joe’s contribution to Irish rugby is broader than just the success achieved with the national team. He has had a hugely positive influence on the entire professional system with both his rugby intellect and his eagerness to invest in and develop both players and coaches throughout the country.
“In conversations with Joe you got a clear sense that this was a very tough decision for him knowing how much he enjoys working with this group of coaches and players but it is a decision that Joe, Kelly and the kids have made as a family and that is to be respected.
“The next 11 months will include a really competitive 6 Nations and a World Cup campaign with Joe driving the standards that this group have demanded of themselves over the past 5 years. Regardless of what happens on the pitch over this period of time we are all clearly aware and thankful of the better place that Joe will be leaving Irish Rugby in post the Rugby World Cup.”
While the highs of Sunday night’s awards show will undoubtedly dissipate following Monday’s sobering news, all eyes now point to Joe Schmidt’s successor, who was confirmed as Andy Farrell, Schmidt’s defence coach.
Farrell has received high praise on the pitch and in the boardroom, with Ireland’s recent defensive performances, particularly against New Zeland, becoming the envy of most in world rugby.
With Ireland flying high and boasting the most talented squad in recent memory, Schmidt has a genuine chance of bowing out at the top of the game with another 6 Nations title and, dare I say it, the Webb Ellis Cup.