Joe Schmidt has welcomed the “super but intimidating” prospect of leading Ireland after being appointed head coach until 2016.
Schmidt’s promotion from Leinster, who he guided to successive Heineken Cup crowns in 2011 and 12, to the top job in Irish rugby was confirmed overnight when he signed a three-year contract.
The 52-year-old New Zealander will officially begin work on July 1 with Les Kiss – the attack coach under Schmidt’s predecessor Declan Kidney – overseeing the summer tour to the USA and Canada.
“When I came to Leinster in 2010 I didn’t really want to be a head coach, but I’ve really enjoyed the experience since,” he said.
“I’m really motivated by challenge and this is a super but intimidating one.
“If you’re going to find out what you can bring to a group, what better way than to take on one of the big jobs in world rugby.
“I’ve had a good look at a lot of Ireland’s players and when we get our collective together, we’ll try to improve performance and make us as competitive as possible.”
Kidney, who mastermind of the 2009 Grand Slam triumph, was removed on April 2 after presiding over a dismal fifth-place finish in the RBS Six Nations – Ireland’s worst championship performance since 1999.
Kiss and Ewen McKenzie were considered for the post – Jake White, Conor O’Shea and Mark McCall had ruled themselves out – but Schmidt was viewed as the outstanding candidate following his success at Leinster.
It is his provincial duties that will prevent him from making an immediate start as Leinster are through to the final of the Amlin Challenge Cup and remain in RaboDirect PRO12 title contention.
One of the most pressing concerns will be to finalise his backroom staff. Kiss could be retained, but forwards coach Gert Smal and defensive mastermind Anthony Foley are unlikely to be remain.
“The job was only confirmed today and now I need to look ahead and start planning, but that’s difficult because I’ve currently got my hands full,” he said.
“Hopefully over the next four to six weeks I’ll get some time to start getting my head around the new role.”
Instrumental in Schmidt’s decision to swap provincial for Test rugby was the scope it would provide to help his wife look after their nine-year-old son, Luke, who has epilepsy.
While admitting the change from day to day rugby management to clearly defined periods of the calendar will be difficult, he insists it will have its benefits.
“The windows are suffocating, but there is also more scope to get back and forth to New Zealand,” he said.
“I have a daughter who is studying there so it would be nice to get backwards and forwards to see family.
“My family were part of the decision, they’re very settled here.
“I’ve spoken out lately about our smaller son and he’s looked after superbly at his school. That was a big part of our decision making.”