The IRFU are facing a battle to convince Joe Schmidt to extend his Ireland contract through to the 2019 World Cup after it emerged the New Zealander has recently been contacted by the Highlanders about a move home next summer when his current contract in Dublin expires.

Schmidt reiterated a fortnight ago he would make up his mind on his future while on holiday in New Zealand following the completion of the June tour to South Africa, but the revelation that the Dunedin-based Super Rugby franchise CEO Roger Clark has been in touch with a view to him succeeding Tony Brown has increased speculation that he will leave Ireland at the end of his IRFU deal in 12 months.

Two of Schmidt's four children are at university in New Zealand and with Melbourne in Australia having become a port of call in helping with his youngest child's epilepsy, his family situation, allied to the prospect of a Super Rugby head coach job offer, looks a package too good for the Kiwi to ignore, ending a stint in Ireland that started in 2010 at Leinster before taking the national job three years later.

All Black coaches have only ever been appointed from within the New Zealand system and Schmidt's proposed link with the Highlanders would also manoeuvre him into the frame to succeed Stave Hansen, who is expected to depart following the 2019 World Cup, something NZRU officials would be enthused about after the coach's stock jumped massively with Saturday's historic first win by a 14-man Irish side away to South Africa.


That surprise victory in Cape Town has pushed Ireland up to fifth in the world rankings allaying fears, following an underwhelming Six Nations campaign, of a third-band seeding for the 2019 World Cup.

CJ Stander will learn his fate this morning after the disciplinary hearing into his red card on was adjourned after five hours on Sunday.

The Munster captain was dismissed by French referee Mathieu Raynal after 22 minutes of Saturday's first Test.

Schmidt has expressed his hope the South African-born 26-year-old will escape a ban for the incident in which he followed through on an attempted charge-down and caught out-half Pat Lambie in the head.

The Springbok number 10 was stretchered off and will miss Saturday's second Test in Johannesburg with concussion. X-rays revealed no further damage.

It now remains to be seen whether Stander will be made available after Australian official Terry Willis called proceedings to a halt.

They resume at 10am today.

'We'd love to have him available, we're going to find out in the next couple of days what, if any, consequences there are from his attempted charge-down,' Schmidt said.

'So, we'd be delighted to get him back if that's possible. If we don't, this is a 32-man squad, there are 32 players working to try and be selected and it means somebody else will step up.

'I thought the red card was very, very harsh, to be honest.

CJ's got both hands extended, once you're in the air you can't change your trajectory.

'The one thing I would say, I think Pat Lambie's a super player, I certainly hope that Pat's OK. I know CJ and Pat are friends, and that they know each other.

'CJ was upset that Pat was hurt as much as he was upset that he had to leave the field.

It's one of those thing that happens. I think, sometimes, when there is an injury like that, the consequence is that a card comes out and that was the result.'