The Irish Rugby Football Union has confirmed that Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt will continue in his role up to the end of the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.
New Zealander Schmidt took the position in 2013 and led the team to back-to-back Six Nations titles.
Schmidt’s contract was due to expire next year and there had been questions over his future but the news that he will see Ireland through the 2019 World Cup comes as a massive boost to Irish rugby.
As well as successive 6 Nations Championships in 2014 and 2015, Schmidt has also led Ireland to a first Test Series win in the southern hemisphere in Argentina in 2014 and a first ever Test victory on South African soil against the hosts was in Cape Town at the end of the 2015/16 season.
Philip Browne, IRFU Chief Executive, said: “The IRFU is delighted to confirm that Joe will continue through to the next World Cup.
“Since coming to Ireland he has made a huge contribution to Irish rugby at provincial and national level and also actively supports our clubs across the four provinces.”
Schmidt admitted that family considerations did mean that his decision to remain in Ireland was not always straightforward but that the continued support of the rugby community in Ireland was a deciding factor.
“I’d like to thank the IRFU for their patience and confidence as the decision to continue took somewhat longer than I’d anticipated,” he said.
“It is difficult at times being so far away from extended family but we appreciate how lucky we are to have the support we have here in Ireland.
“The strength of the rugby community has been incredibly visible over the past week and the enthusiasm of management and players to improve and compete is complemented by a really positive camaraderie.
“The wider community has made us welcome and as a family we have benefited immensely from their support.
“Looking forward there are positive signs with the U20s finalists at the Junior World Championships this year, the provinces topping three of the five European Champions Cup pools as well as Ulster and Leinster sharing the lead of the PRO12 at present.”
Schmidt’s immediate attentions now turn to Ireland’s autumn Test series when they will face Canada, Australia and New Zealand.