Rugby: Kiwi linked to Irish job

By Cameron McMillan

Joe Schmidt has coached Irish club Leinster to two Heineken Cup title. Photo / Getty Images
Joe Schmidt has coached Irish club Leinster to two Heineken Cup title. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealander Joe Schmidt is being tipped as a replacement for axed Irish coach Declan Kidney.

Kidney was sacked by the Irish Rugby Football Union overnight following a disappointing Six Nations campaign.

Schmidt, a former assistant at the Blues, has coached Irish side Leinster to consecutive Heineken Cup titles and has one more year on his contract at the club.

He recently distanced himself the Irish top job after signing a one-year extension at Leinster.

"I have enough troubles on my own plate, some of them self-inflicted, with the guys we have injured here at the moment," Schmidt told the Irish Independent.

"My head is wrecked with that stuff. Whenever we lose I don't get a lot of sleep but I know that Declan will still be in the mix and until that is sorted... I am not a massive fan of conjecture. I'm here at Leinster next year and that keeps my hands full."

The Telegraph reports that Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie is the favourite to replace Kidney while Schmidt among the contenders.

Other possible candidates to replace Kidney are Harlequins coach Conor O'Shea, Saracens' Mark McCall, Ireland Under-20s and former Welsh coach Mike Ruddock, and former South African coach Jake White.

Schmidt ruled himself out of the Blues top job last year but at the time side he'd be keen to return to New Zealand in the near future with his daughter looking to study back home.

"I will definitely end up back there [in New Zealand]. I don't know if I will be coaching or what I will be doing. You are never secure as a coach. You are under someone else's control or at the whim of whoever is selecting coaches. There's the old adage that there are only two types of coaches, ones who have been fired and others waiting to be fired," he told Newstalk ZB last March.

The Irish role would be an appealing prospect for Schmidt however and if he got the job it would mean another New Zealander in a top role in European rugby. Fellow Kiwi Warren Gatland currently coaches Wales and will lead the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia later this year. Former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith was set to take up a role with England last year before deciding to work with the Chiefs instead.

The IRFU issued a statement on Tuesday announcing the end of Kidney's four-year tenure.

"The Irish Rugby Football Union today announced that it will not be offering a new contract to Declan Kidney after his current agreement ends (on 30 June next), with Declan's role as Ireland's Senior Men's Coach ceasing today,'' it said.

The 53-year-old - who guided Ireland to the 2009 Six Nations Grand Slam and won the world coach of the year award as a result - had been widely expected not to have his contract renewed at the end of June after a poor Six Nations.

The Irish only avoided the wooden spoon by a better points difference to France.

Australian Les Kiss, who is also the Irish defence coach, will temporary take charge of the team on its tour of the United States and Canada in June as the search for a long-term replacement begins.

- nzherald.co.nz

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