The IRFU have confirmed that they will not stand in the way of Joe Schmidt coaching the Lions next year, if he is offered the job.
Along with Wales supremo Warren Gatland, Schmidt is the front-runner to lead the Lions in New Zealand but the Ireland coach had seemingly ruled himself out of contention last January, citing contractual constraints.
However, in an interview with a Sunday newspaper, the IRFU’s performance director David Nucifora revealed that the union would support Schmidt if he is offered the job when the Lions committee reconvene in the Autumn.
Schmidt’s contract with the IRFU is due to expire in June next year and whether or not he extends it until the 2019 World Cup will largely depend on family reasons.
“If Joe was offered the role that he wanted to do it, that would be great. And we’d cope,” Nucifora said.
Given that the Lions expect the role to be a 12-month gig, Schmidt may be forced to step back from his role as Ireland coach for this November’s Test series as well as next year’s Six Nations.
But if Schmidt was offered the job, he may well point to the last Lions tour in 2013 when Gatland seemed to still have a major say in Wales matters in 2012-13, despite Rob Howley being named as their interim head coach, as Nucifora pointed out.
“Hopefully his (Schmidt) time away from the team isn’t too long but if it had to be, and he wanted to do it, we’d certainly be supportive,” Nucifora said.
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