Andy Farrell will become Ireland head coach following the 2019 Rugby World Cup after Joe Schmidt confirmed he will not extend his stay in charge of the newly-crowned World Rugby Team of the Year, the Irish Rugby Football Union has announced.
Schmidt’s future was of great debate this year after leading Ireland to No 2 in the world rankings, a Six Nations Grand Slam and 11 wins out of 12 Tests in 2018, including a second victory in three years over New Zealand.
Ireland’s emergence as a heavyweight nation led the IRFU to try and talk the Kiwi coach into extending his contract, but not only has he decided to leave his position following next year’s tournament in Japan, he has announced that he will retire in order spend more time with his family.
"I have decided to finish coaching and will prioritise family commitments after the RWC in 2019,” Schmidt said in a statement.
“I feel that Irish rugby is in good hands. The management and players have been incredible to work with and the tremendous support we have had, particularly at home in the Aviva, but where ever we have travelled has been uplifting.
“Thank you to the IRFU for their support and patience and thanks also to so many people who have adopted my family and me, making us feel part of the community here in Ireland.
“There are some inspiring challenges over the next 11 months so there's plenty of motivation for me to continue working hard, alongside the other management staff, so that the team can be as competitive as possible."
With Schmidt making his decision known to IRFU chief executive Philip Browne and performance director David Nucifora, the pair have wasted no time in identifying and appointing Schmidt’s replacement, with former England international Farrell set to step up from his current role as defence coach.
"It is a privilege to be considered for such a prestigious role,” Farrell said, having been the subject of an ambitious attempt from the RFU this year to try and bring him back to his former role following the shock departure of Paul Gustard, three years after being replaced.
“I have learned a lot from Joe over the past few seasons and I will continue to learn from him over the next year as the coaching group and players focus on competing in two huge tournaments in 2019."
Farrell joined Schmidt’s set-up in 2016 after roles with England and his former club Saracens, and has also been part of Warren Gatland’s backroom staffed that led the series victory over Australia in 2013 and draw with New Zealand last year.
"We are delighted to have secured Andy as in-coming head coach,” said Browne, who confirmed that Farrell is tied down to Ireland through to the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. “As part of Joe's management team Andy has already helped to deliver huge performances and I know he will continue to inspire our players for years to come.
“Andy has world class coaching credentials and we are pleased to have a roadmap for an orderly transition post Rugby World Cup to the 2019 Six Nations."
Nucifora added: “We are incredibly fortunate to have a coach of the calibre of Andy Farrell in Irish rugby. He has proven through his work ethic and success with Ireland and the Lions over the last number of years that he is the person to take Irish rugby forward after RWC 2019. The close working relationship that our current coaching group have and what they will continue to gain over the next year with Joe still at the helm leaves Andy and Irish rugby in the enviable position of having continuity before building the road forward.”
Browne also paid tribute to Schmidt’s work since becoming Ireland coach in 2013 following the dismissal of Declan Kidney, with the New Zealander leading them to Six Nations titles in 2014, 2015 and the Grand Slam triumph in 2018, along with reaching the quarter-finals of the last Rugby World Cup and a first series win over Australia last summer.
"I would like to thank Joe, and his family, on behalf of the IRFU Union Committee, all the staff of Irish rugby and every rugby supporter, for everything he has done for the game in Ireland,” Browne said. “Joe has travelled to clubs throughout the country, assisted with our sponsor programme and attended a huge number of charity events, helping to raise vital funding for those who need it most.
“Sport has the ability to lift people out of the day-to-day concerns of life and Joe, and his team, have provided historic moments of great joy, that will live long in the memories of everyone in the rugby family.
“Of course, this is not yet the end, and we look forward an exciting and challenging 11 months for Irish Rugby during Joe's final Six Nations and the Rugby World Cup in Japan."
“On a personal level, I would like to thank Joe for his warmth, his time, honesty and his genuine interest in everything that we do in Irish Rugby to grow the game."
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