REPORTS: Former Ireland Head Coach in Contention for IRFU Return - Ruck

REPORTS: Former Ireland Head Coach in Contention for IRFU Return

Former Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt is reportedly in contention for a return to the IRFU, and is said to be ‘in the frame’ to be Ireland’s next Performance Director. Schmidt stepped away from Ireland after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which saw his side eliminated in the quarter-finals by the All Blacks.

Joe Schmidt Head Coach of Ireland arrives before the six Nations Championship match, between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium, London , UK, on the 17th March 2017. (Photo:Dean Lancaster/PPAUK)

Schmidt had a decorated tenure in his six years in charge of Ireland, winning three Guinness Six Nations titles, including the 2018 Grand Slam. He also led Ireland to a tour series win over Australia that same year, which awarded Schmidt the 2018 World Rugby Coach of the Year Award.

Additionally, Schmidt was at the helm for Ireland’s first ever victory over the Springboks in South Africa, and left an emphatic legacy overall.

A native New Zealander, Schmidt returned to his homeland and joined up with the Blues in Super Rugby, taking the role of Assistant Coach. The 57-year-old was also a key squad selector and coach for the All Blacks, as they took on his former side of Ireland in their 2021 Summer tour.

Image Credit: Planet Rugby on Twitter

Schmidt is one of a handful of potential candidates for David Nucifora’s role as Ireland’s Performance Director. Nucifora has been at the helm of the IRFU’s elite progression since 2014, with a reported ‘world class’ replacement preferred by IRFU Chief Executive Kevin Potts.

As quoted in the Irish Independent and, Potts highlighted Nucifora’s impact on the Ireland side, and how he will be missed upon his exit.

“He’ll be a hard act to follow, I think. David has signalled that next year is probably when he’ll move on. I’m at an advanced stage of looking at transition planning with David. As part of the transition planning, we will obviously need to find a world-class successor.

“So, when we’re in a position to bring all of that together, we will publicly announce that. But for now, David’s focus is where we want it to be, which is on supporting our men in particular in their run-up to Rugby World Cup 2023, our sevens programmes are working really hard to try and achieve Olympic qualification, looking at future pathways and pipeline or playing opportunities for our U-20s and academy players.

“And what I don’t want them thinking about before Rugby World Cup is transition. So, it’s at an advanced stage in terms of our planning but, for now, David will get on with the excellent work that he’s doing and we will make announcements when we can later on in the year, I would say.

Image Credit: Planet Rugby on Twitter

“It is a vitally important position for Irish rugby and it’s something we will and are taking very, very seriously.

“It’s finding the right person, someone who is world-class and has an ability to drive and develop, build on the massive success we’ve had.”