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IRFU chief gives update on Schmidt future as Ireland set out ambitious World Cup targets

By Nathaniel Cope
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

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With Joe Schmidt’s Ireland contract set to run out at the end of the 2019 World Cup, there has been much speculation over his future.


Having led Leinster to European and PRO12 success, Schmidt was appointed to the Ireland job in 2013 and has won three 6 Nations titles during that time, including the 2018 Grand Slam.

IRFU chief executive Phillip Browne hopes that there will be clarification soon on Schmidt, who has been touted as a future All Blacks head coach.

“I think Joe has said he will have a better idea as to where he’s at after the autumn internationals, so I would imagine by the end of the year we’ll be in a position where we know what his plans are,” said Browne.

“When we know what his plans are, that at least gives us the opportunity to get on with our plans.”

But with uncertainty over Schmidt’s future Browne remains confident that Ireland can continue being successful no matter who is in charge.

“The reality is the plan can’t be built around one person, it has to be built around systems, processes and structures.”


“The reality is nobody can be indispensable. Having said that, it would be great if Joe stays.

“Equally, if he goes, we have to deal with it and the best way to deal with it is making sure we have a set of systems and processes in place that are effectively robust and aren’t dependent on one individual – that’s the reality.

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The IRFU have laid out their targets for the next five-year period with the men’s team targeting at least a semi-final place at the World Cup next year and in 2023. Ireland have never been beyond the quarter-final stage of a World Cup, most recently being knocked out by Argentina in the last 8 at the 2015 World Cup in Cardiff.


IRFU Strategic Plan 2018-2023


  • Semi-finals or better at RWC19/RWC23
  • 2 or more 6 Nations titles
  • 2 or more European titles
  • 2 or more PRO14 titles
  • 7s qualification for 2020 Olympics
  • 7s attain World Series status


  • WRWC21 qualification & Top 6 finish
  • One 6 Nations title (Top 3 otherwise)
  • Qualification for 2020 Olympics 7s
  • Qualification for 2022 7s World Cup
  • Win two 7s World Series tournaments
  • Consistent Top 6 finish 7s World Series
  • Consistent Top 2 finish U18 Europe 7s

IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora insists the goals set out are only “base level bench marks”.

“The notion we put it up on a piece of paper and we get to the semi-finals and we say ‘that’s great, job done, let’s all go off and have a party’ – that’s naive,” he said.

“The reality is our teams have aspirations, they have ambitions, they are all professional players and professional coaches. They will not be satisfied unless they try to win every fixture.”

The IRFU also want to build a special high performance centre, with Nucifora adding:

“The focus will be to drive alignment across the game and ensure the talent pathways feed the high performance side of the game with a particular emphasis on Sevens and the interface between Clubs and Schools and the professional game.

“Key areas of focus will be further advancement of player management programme, coach education, talent development, investment in research and data analytics and the recruitment and retention of world leading experts across the range of high performance disciplines. The delivery of a world class high performance centre will be a key element in driving the performance goals targeted over the next five years.”

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