DUBLIN – World coach of the year Joe Schmidt is to step down as Ireland handler after next year's World Cup and be replaced by their defence guru Andy Farrell the Irish Rugby Football Union announced on Monday.
The 53-year-old New Zealander - named coach of the year on Sunday - has guided the Irish to unprecedented success in his tenure since taking over the reins of a demoralised outfit in 2013.
Under him they have won three Six Nations titles - including this year's Grand Slam - and two historic wins over world champions New Zealand, including a first ever win over them on Irish soil in an epic 16-9 victory earlier this month.
Schmidt will next year hope to set right the one major disappointment in his reign - the humbling by Argentina in the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals - and deliver the Webb Ellis trophy to Ireland for the first time.
Schmidt, who was hired as Ireland coach on the back of a successful spell at Irish province Leinster winning successive European Cups (2011/12), will he says take time out from coaching to be with his family.
One of Schmidt's children Luke suffers from epilepsy and the coach has become heavily involved in the epilepsy charity in Ireland.
“I have decided to finish coaching and will prioritise family commitments after the RWC in 2019,” Schmidt said. “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 at Lansdowne Road, but where ever we have travelled has been uplifting.”
Farrell, a former England rugby league great who switched codes and represented England in union as well, has been instrumental also in Ireland's success since being hired in 2016.
The 43-year-old Englishman - whose son Owen is England's co-captain and first choice fly-half - has been Ireland's gain and his home country's loss.
Eddie Jones considered him surplus to requirements as defence coach on taking over following the 2015 World Cup debacle which saw hosts England crash out in the group stage.
Farrell prowess in defence coaching has been integral to three victories over the All Blacks in the last two years, the two Irish ones in Chicago in 2016 and this year and the British & Irish Lions success in 2017 in the three Test series which ended 1-1.
“It is a privilege to be considered for such a prestigious role,” said Farrell.
“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.”
Agence France-Presse (AFP)