Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has ruled himself out of taking charge of the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2021.
Schmidt and Warren Gatland, the Wales coach, have made it clear they will both be taking a break from rugby after the World Cup in Japan and have not lined up new jobs. Schmidt said: “I wouldn’t be available if asked to coach the British and Irish Lions at the moment. ”
Schmidt wants to take a year off to spend time with his family while Gatland expects to spend “ four or five months” on the beach – also back in New Zealand. Both coaches have masterminded Grand Slam Six Nations campaigns and their rugby CVs make them attractive candidates for any job.
Gatland, who has been linked with another Lions tour to South Africa and is a contender to replace Eddie Jones with England, clarified his position post-World Cup at today’s Six Nations launch in London. Gatland, who is preparing Wales for their February 1 opener with France in Paris, said: “ All I have said is that I finish with Wales at the end of the year, will take a break and spend four or five months on the beach and assess my future after that. That is all I have been doing. People have contacted me and asked if there is an interest and I have said my focus at the moment is on Wales. It will be a case in the future of what floats my boat.”
Schmidt insists the defence of the Slam and Ireland’s bid for a first World Cup triumph will ensure his full attention is on the here and now rather than what could be on offer when he needs a new job. Schmidt, who opens the defence of the title against England on February 2, said: “ The short term plan is not to be involved in coaching for 12 months and quite likely longer than that because we have some projects as a family that we want to work our way through.
“I don’t spend a lot of time at home and it is about time I did. I wouldn’t say I am looking to do any coaching and it is not at the forefront of my mind. In a conversation with myself I said that whatever happens after that I want to make sure these next 10 months are as good as I can be with the players and put as much effort into that. I don’t want to be distracted by what may happen after that.”