Joe Schmidt refusing to be drawn on 2017 British & Irish Lions post
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 27/01/16 5:39pm
Joe Schmidt insists he cannot currently be considered to lead the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand in 2017 due to the constraints of his Ireland contract.
Ireland head coach Schmidt revealed his current deal does not allow him to take the year-long sabbatical the Lions require in the build-up to the tour.
New Zealander Schmidt and compatriot and Wales boss Warren Gatland are the front-runners to lead the Lions tour next summer, with the latter favourite for the post.
Speaking at the media launch for the Six Nations in London, Schmidt said: "To be honest the terms of my current contract doesn't allow me to do the Lions, so it's actually a moot point.
"It doesn't distract me because it isn't actually something I can do unless the terms of my contract change. I finish at that time and there's some outside influences on that that will probably dictate anything beyond that.
"So I'm not planning for beyond where my contract finishes, and to be honest, if you're a coach sometimes you don't even get to the finish of it because that's the harsh reality, it's a very success-driven environment."
Schmidt's current Ireland contract expires at the end of June 2017, just as the Lions would be looking to head on tour.
There is no suggestion Schmidt would be constrained by his Ireland role of joining the Lions' backroom staff however.
And that leaves open the potential for Schmidt to work under Gatland, who led the Lions to their 2013 series win in Australia.
Gatland already has a clause in his contract allowing for a sabbatical next year, and said he would find it 'tough to turn it down' if he was offered the position again.
"He (Schmidt) can have the Lions job if he wants it," joked Gatland. "Have you seen the schedule? He can have it,"
But the Wales coach admitted the chance to field a winning side in the world champions' backyard could prove too much to resist.
"It's a really tough tour. I'm not saying the Lions can't win, it's just a tough schedule. It's the hardest place in the world to go and play, from a travel and organisation perspective as well as the rugby perspective. It's not un-winnable, but it's a very, very tough schedule.
The Premiership and Celtic League finals take place on May 28, 2017 and Gatland says the Lions tour would effectively start the day after those matches, before the opening tour clash on June 3.
"The team has an away dinner on the Sunday, fly on the Monday, arrive on the Wednesday and your first game's on the Saturday," he added.
"Then you're playing a Test match two weeks later. So it's very tough. But if I got offered it again it would be difficult to turn down."