Ireland World Cup Homecoming: Joe Schmidt – The Irish Examiner – October 23 2019

Schmidt refuses to rule out second act

By Daire Walsh

As his six-and-a-half year stint in charge of Ireland draws to a close, Joe Schmidt hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to coaching in the distant future. The New Zealander led the national side into the battle for the final time last Saturday — a crushing World Cup quarter-final defeat to his native country at the Toyota Stadium in Chofu.

Schmidt had previously indicated his intention to retire from coaching, but he has been offered a number of positions in recent months.

“I know I’m not going to do it in the near future. I’ve been blown away by some of the approaches and incredibly humbled by them. I made a commitment that I’m going to absolutely stick to, through to at least June or July of next year,” Schmidt acknowledged as he arrived back with the squad at Dublin Airport last night.

“It hasn’t been a job, it has been a way of life. It has been seven days a week and I think I can honestly say, in six and a half years I’ve not taken one full day off.

There’s not one day where I don’t think I’ve either been scribbling notes or watching footage, or getting to a game or doing some coaching. Going into a club and doing something. I’ve loved it.

While Schmidt has guided Ireland to three Six Nations Championships — including a 2018 Grand Slam — during his time at the helm, the failure to reach a World Cup semi-final is a source of frustration for the former Leinster supremo.

In comparison to their reversal at the hands of Argentina in Cardiff four years ago, Schmidt admitted his immediate departure makes Saturday’s loss a tougher pill to swallow.

“It is more difficult, because I’ve finished as a rugby coach and it’s hard to step away with that as your last involvement. At the same time, I can only work as hard as I can work. I’ve worked with incredibly good people, the staff and the playing staff.

“I know these players and I’m going to really enjoy watching them continue to progress and I think Andy Farrell and the team, they’re still going to be doing a super job. I’m really looking forward to the Six Nations. Instead of looking through the glass, I might just have one in my hand and I’m looking forward to that.”

Meanwhile, Simon Zebo has reiterated his desire to return to the international fold under incoming head coach Farrell. The IRFU’s unofficial policy of selecting players who are based in Ireland left the Racing 92 winger out in the cold for the final two years of Schmidt’s reign.

“I’m enjoying my rugby in France but I’d definitely pick up the phone to Andy if I got a call. I haven’t been in contact with anyone in the Irish set-up really,” Zebo explained in his column for Paddy Power News. “Our season at Racing is just getting into gear and the World Cup will be fresh in everyone’s mind there.”

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