(Reuters) – Joe Schmidt is stepping down as Ireland head coach after the 2019 World Cup in Japan and will be replaced by defence coach Andy Farrell, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said on Monday.
Since taking on the job in 2013, New Zealander Schmidt has overseen the team’s most successful period, winning three Six Nations titles, as well as enjoying victories over the All Blacks and a series triumph in Australia, among others.
“I have decided to finish coaching and will prioritise family commitments after the RWC (World Cup) in 2019,” Schmidt said through an IRFU statement.
“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.”
IRFU chief executive Philip Browne hailed Schmidt’s contribution after the 53-year-old was named 2018 World Rugby Coach of the Year on Sunday.
“Sport has the ability to lift people out of the day-to-day concerns of life and Joe, and his team, have provided historic moments of great joy, that will live long in the memories of everyone in the rugby family,” Browne said.
“Of course, this is not yet the end, and we look forward an exciting and challenging 11 months for Irish Rugby during Joe’s final Six Nations and the Rugby World Cup in Japan.”
Former dual-code international Farrell also paid tribute to Schmidt, the Englishman saying it was a privilege to be considered for such a “prestigious role” at the world number two-ranked side.
“I have learnt 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,” Farrell said.
Ireland begin the defence of their Six Nations title at home to England in February, before heading to the World Cup, where they have been drawn in Pool A with hosts Japan, Scotland, Russia and Samoa.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by John O’Brien)