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The 50-year-old’s current contract expires after next year’s Six Nations, but after an injury-affected championship in which he handed debuts to five players, the New Zealander has hinted at staying on until the 2019 World Cup to provide a developing squad with “continuity”.
Schmidt led Ireland to back-to-back Six Nations titles in his first two years in charge, and they could yet finish third this season if they beat Scotland in Dublin on Saturday and England complete a Grand Slam with victory away to France.
The former Leinster coach has admitted he would be happy with a third-place finish this season, but insisted he was already looking to the longer-term future.
“It is something that I’ve committed to making a decision on once we get back from Africa really,” he said.
“It’s really important that there is a clear pathway for players to know that there’s some continuity there or, if that continuity is going to be with someone else, that there’s a span of enough time that they can get the game up and running as they see it best being played.
“I am conscious of my responsibility there, there’s some factors outside of rugby that tend to dictate for me ]Schmidt’s son Luke suffers from severe epilepsy’ so we’ll be a little bit further down the track with some of those decisions as well.
“You couldn’t get a better group of young men to work with, and not-so-young men who are still sprightly in how they move about; the mix has changed a bit this year.”
“We’re going to go out on the weekend and play with about half as many caps as we last time we played Scotland. Those things change but at the same time you can still get pretty excited about what the future might hold,” he added.
Ireland flyhalf Jonathan Sexton, who enjoyed European Cup glory under Schmidt at Leinster, is eager to see the Kiwi stay in charge.
“I hope he’s here for at least the next World Cup,” Sexton said. “That’s what everyone in the squad would hope. We feel that we’re building something… There is still plenty of rugby to be played with Joe in charge.”
Ireland captain Rory Best will make his 32nd consecutive Six Nations appearance on Saturday after the hooker overcame a calf problem.
Meanwhile Tommy O’Donnell is the only change to the team that thrashed Italy 58-15 last weekend – Ireland’s first win this championship – after replacing Josh van der Flier in the back-row.
Ireland: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best(captain), 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Nathan White, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Fergus McFadden.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 John Hardie, 6 John Barclay, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Moray Low, 19 Rob Harley, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Sean Lamont.