Joe Schmidt is back in full-time rugby, the former Ireland coach becoming World Rugby’s new director of rugby and high performance and quashing speculation that he was set for a move back into the club game in England or France. 

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Since stepping down at Ireland boss at the end of last year’s World Cup in Japan, there had been much speculation about what the New Zealander’s next move would be. 

However, instead of taking on a big project outside Ireland, Schmidt has hooked up with the Dublin-headquartered World Rugby to take charge of a new department in the international federation responsible for the high performance, match officials and technical services functions, including player welfare as well as training and education.

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In the role, Schmidt will report to chief executive Brett Gosper from November within a restructure reflecting the organisation’s objective of further engaging coaches, players and match officials in the decision-making process, as it seeks to make the sport simpler, safer and more enjoyable for both participants and spectators.

Schmidt said: “I’m really looking forward to getting started. I’m passionate about the game and keen that people continue to enjoy being involved in it, from the young to the young at heart. 

“The professional game is the showpiece for our sport and involving key stakeholders in our discussions about how the game is played and how players are managed will be beneficial. It has been a challenging year thus far and likely to remain difficult for some time, but it has been great to see the resumption of numerous competitions, with plenty of entertaining and exciting matches.”

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Gosper said: “We are delighted to appoint a person of Joe’s calibre, expertise and global credibility to this newly-created and strategically important position within the organisation.

“As an international federation, we must strive to continually increase our connection and collaboration with the most important stakeholders in our game – players, coaches, match officials, unions and, of course, fans. 

“It is fantastic to have an individual who has been at the forefront of the high-performance game management evolution at the very highest level for well over a decade.”

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