DUBLIN – Joe Schmidt says whether he stays on as Ireland rugby coach after next year’s World Cup or moves on, with the likely destination New Zealand, will be decided by his family.
The 53-year-old New Zealander – whose contract comes to an end after the sport’s quadrennial showpiece in Japan – will announce his decision by the end of November, and it would be fair to say Irish fans will pray he opts to stay.
The former school teacher has overseen the most successful era in the national side’s history, delivering three Six Nations titles – including the Grand Slam this year – and two historic wins over New Zealand since taking over a demoralised outfit in 2013.
The first ever win over the All Blacks came in Chicago in 2016, and was followed by a first victory on home soil on Saturday – which has led to many believing Schmidt could achieve the greatest goal of all New Zealand rugby coaches, the All Blacks post.
However, Schmidt said after the epic 16-9 victory over the All Blacks in Dublin that he will focus on the United States Test next Saturday, before a final discussion with his wife and four children.
“I’m not that good at many things, but I compartmentalise really well,” he said.
“So, I’m happy to just park that.
“To be honest, I’d like to think about it, but it’s very much a family decision, and I haven’t really seen my family since I went to Chicago (for the 54-7 thrashing of Italy in early November).
“We had a pretty good chat about it over the summer, and then we’ll just confirm things, one way or the other.”
Schmidt said he gets “reflected pride” out of the success of the team, and there are many backroom staff who don’t get the recognition they deserve.
He said Ireland’s players will be able to handle the expectations victories like Saturday’s over the All Blacks will provoke among fans.
“We want to be as good as we can be, so we try to create our own expectation,” he said.
“We’ll benchmark Saturday and say: ‘Can we reach that again? Can we make sure that we deliver at that level’?
“Now, you might deliver that again, and an All Black team might beat you.
“But you know you’re in the ball-park, you know you can foot it with the big boys when you can eke your way through an arm-wrestle like that.”
Schmidt’s All Blacks counterpart Steve Hansen has said it will be interesting to see how the Irish cope with being the world’s best team, a tag he said they deserved for coming out on top in a battle of the two top-ranked sides.
Schmidt has dismissed that label – New Zealand remain top of the rankings – but admits there will be pressure come the Six Nations, and they need to keep getting better as other sides are improving.
“Yes, there’ll be some expectation because we’re the current champions, and have been three out of the last five years,” he said.
“So therefore, we expect that there should be some pressure on us to produce performances in the Six Nations.
“But at the same time we’re realistic, because we know how good those other teams are, and we know how good we’re going to have to be.”AFP