DUBLIN (Reuters) – Joe Schmidt promised to make a decision on his future as Ireland coach within days of Saturday’s final November test against the United States when he will field an almost entirely changed side from the one that toppled New Zealand last week.
Schmidt, who has led Ireland to three Six Nations titles in his five seasons in charge, has been touted as a successor to Steve Hansen as coach of his native New Zealand when both of their contracts expire after next year’s World Cup.
The 53-year-old Schmidt has spent the last eight years in Ireland having coached Leinster before taking the national job. He said on Thursday that he would make a much-anticipated announcement on his future by early next week.
“The family I have probably committed most to is this family I live with in Carton House (Ireland’s training base) as much as it is the family I have at home. We’ve put our heads together and tried to reconcile how we can best cater for both,” Schmidt told a new conference.
“I’d like to be able to take a deep breath on Sunday. I know I can’t continue to go backwards and forwards because to be honest I’ve beaten myself up about this decision and I’m probably going to be the most pleased of anyone when it finally is made.”
After recording his and Ireland’s second ever victory over the All Blacks last Saturday, Schmidt unsurprisingly made wholesale changes to face the U.S. with Garry Ringrose the only starter to survive from the hugely impressive 16-9 victory.
That means a first test start for Ulster scrumhalf John Cooney, a likely debut off the bench for Munster centre Sam Arnold and game time for every player that joined the Irish camp this month.
“A: there’s some tired lads from last week and B: it was probably always part of the plan. The two games that bookended gave us the opportunity to broaden the squad,” Schmidt said of tests against Italy and the U.S.
“We had 43 players in total and we wanted to make sure we got a look at all 43 players at some stage. It’s fantastic that they’ve taken that opportunity in the main and hopefully we can finish this bracket of four games on a positive note.”
15-Will Addison, 14-Andrew Conway, 13-Garry Ringrose, 12-Stuart McCloskey, 11-Darren Sweetnam, 10-Joey Carbery, 9-John Cooney, 8-Jack Conan, 7-Jordi Murphy, 6-Rhys Ruddock (captain), 5-Iain Henderson, 4-Tadhg Beirne, 3-Finlay Bealham, 2-Niall Scannell, 1-Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16-Rob Herring, 17-Cian Healy, 18-John Ryan, 19-Quinn Roux, 20-Josh van der Flier, 21-Luke McGrath, 22-Ross Byrne, 23-Sam Arnold
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by David Goodman and Toby Davis)