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IRFU chief executive Philip Browne is hopeful Joe Schmidt will extend his contract until the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Schmidt is contracted to the IRFU until the end of June 2017 but he has the option of extending his deal until after the 2019 Rugby World Cup and a decision on his future is expected later this month.
Super Rugby outfits the Highlanders and Chiefs have made it clear they are interested in speaking to the Ireland head coach about a return to New Zealand, while he has also been touted as a successor to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen after the next World Cup.
Schmidt's decision will be heavily influenced by the health of his young son Luke who has epilepsy and Browne remains hopeful that he will commit to another two years with Ireland.
“I can’t shed any light on it at all, other than Joe knows exactly what our position is. We’d love him to stay. He is in New Zealand still, and until he gets back, we won’t have any further idea. It’s a matter for Joe and what he wants,” Browne said at the Sport Ireland Field Sports Investment Announcement at the National Sports Campus.
"I don’t think it’s a matter of finance. Joe is from New Zealand, he has family in New Zealand and he has to take all of those things into consideration. At the end of the day, we’ll have to wait until Joe comes back. We’ll have conversations, no doubt, and things will become a little more clear.
"I’d imagine that we’ll have a decision before that [January, 2017], to be honest. Joe will make his mind up over the next number of weeks, months and we’ll go forward from then."
Should Schmidt leave at the end of the 2017 summer tour, the IRFU will look at all the options available to them with Browne refusing to rule out appointing a coach currently based outside Ireland.
“I don’t think it’s a worry. We have a lot of good coaches in the system at the moment and there’s a number of very good coaches with an Irish background abroad. So we’re probably in a better place than we’ve ever been in terms of coaching talent," he is quoted as saying in the Irish Examiner.
"Joe is here until the end of the summer tour next year, at a minimum, hopefully longer than that. it gives us a good window of opportunity to sort something out if it arises."