Joe Schmidt has confirmed that he will step down as Ireland head coach after next year’s World Cup.
The New Zealand native will retire from coaching, and will be replaced by current Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell.
Farrell, who has previously coached with Saracens and the England international side, joined Schmidt’s background team in 2016.
Schmidt – who was last night crowned as the World Rugby Coach of the Year last night – says he will prioritize family commitments after next winter’s World Cup in Japan, and has stated that Irish rugby will be in good hands under his replacement.
“I have decided to finish coaching and will prioritise family commitments after the Rugby World Cup in 2019,” Schmidt announced.
“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 Stadium, but wherever 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.”
The 53-year-old has overseen the most successful period in Irish rugby history since being appointed in 2013.
Under Schmidt, Ireland have won the Six Nations three times – including this year’s unforgettable Grand Slam – in five years, beaten New Zealand twice, beaten South Africa in South Africa for the first time, and risen to second in the world rankings.
Ireland have won 74% of their 62 matches under the Kiwi manager to date, and were also named the World Rugby Team of the Year at last night’s awards.
Farrell has been a key figure in this success, and also served as a coach on the last two Lions tours.
The 43-year-old says he has learned a lot from Schmidt, and will continue to do so over the next 11 months.
“It is a privilege to be considered for such a prestigious role,” he stated.
“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.”
Schmidt was also full of praise for the Wigan native.
“The coaches have been fantastic to work with and Andy has made a big impact since coming into the group,” Schmidt said.
“His ability to lead and his understanding of the game will ensure that the group will continue to move forward.”