Joe Schmidt will step down as Ireland’s head coach after next year’s Rugby World Cup.
Schmidt was crowned coach of the year in Monaco on Sunday having overseen a stellar year for Irish rugby, which has included a Six Nations Grand Slam, a series victory in Australia, and, most recently, a win over the All Blacks in Dublin.
The New Zealander, who has spent five years in the role, will be replaced by Briton Andy Farrell, currently the team’s defense coach.
“I have decided to finish coaching and will prioritize family commitments after the Rugby World Cup in 2019,” said the 53-year-old Schmidt on Monday.
“I feel that Irish Rugby is in good hands. The management and players have been incredible to work with and the tremendous support we have had, particularly at home in the Aviva Stadium, but wherever we have traveled has been uplifting.”
Schmidt has been at the forefront of the most successful period in the history of Irish rugby, which has included three Six Nations titles and a first ever victory over New Zealand in 2016.
He helped Ireland set a 12-match unbeaten run during the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons, as well as an ongoing run of 12 consecutive victories at home.
“Thank you to the IRFU for their support and patience and thanks also to so many people who have adopted my family and me, making us feel part of the community here in Ireland,” Schmidt continued.
“There are some inspiring challenges over the next 11 months so there’s plenty of motivation for me to continue working hard, alongside the other management staff, so that the team can be as competitive as possible.”
Ireland cleans up at World Rugby Awards
The news that Schmidt will stand down followed came just a day after Ireland completed a clean sweep at the World Rugby Awards.
Flyhalf Johnny Sexton won men’s 15s player of the year, while Ireland also won team of the year after losing just one match in 2018.
“Even after we beat the All Blacks a week ago, we came in on Monday morning and thought, ‘how are we going to be better?’ That’s got to be our mantra for the next 12 months,” captain Rory Best told CNN Sport, referring to Ireland’s 16-9 victory over New Zealand earlier in November.
“It has been over the five years that Joe has been involved. Players like Johnny [Sexton], Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander — they want to get better. Even with Johnny being player of the year, you know that he is going into Leinster training on Tuesday morning and he’s going to want to be better.
“When he comes back in the Ireland squad he’s going to want to drive the standards.”
Sexton, who had Best speaking on his behalf at the awards event in Monaco after losing his voice, became the first non-All Black player to be crowned player of the year since 2011.
Also nominated were South Africans Faf de Klerk and Malcolm Marx and New Zealanders Rieko Ioane and Beauden Barrett — who won the award in 2016 and 2017.
Sexton has been instrumental in his country’s rise to becoming the No. 2 ranked side in the world in recent years, as well as winning a domestic and European double with club side Leinster.
Given Ireland’s recent win against the All Blacks, Schmidt’s team has its best chance ever of winning the World Cup next year in Japan.
“It’s been a great bit of time for us now and we’ve created little bits of history along the way,” said Best. “But we’ve a couple of bits we want to do over the next 12 months under Joe’s tenure.
“We’ve learnt some valuable lessons and some really hard lessons along the way. We’ve always been about the next game and making sure we perform well.
“The next game we have is England at the Aviva Stadium. There’s nothing that will focus the mind more than a game like that.”
Elsewhere at the award ceremony, Jessy Trémoulière won women’s player of the year after helping France win its sixth Six Nations title.
Trémoulière ended the competition as the top points scorer and joint-top try scorer, which included a last-minute winner against England.
Perry Baker was once again named men’s sevens player of the year after bagging 37 tries in the World Rugby Sevens Series where he won silverware with the U.S. in Las Vegas.
New Zealander Michaela Blyde, meanwhile, won the women’s sevens player of the year after the Black Ferns won the Commonwealth Games, the World Cup, and finished runners-up in the World Series.
“I couldn’t do what I do without the teammates that I have and the coaching staff that I have around me,” 22-year-old Blyde told CNN Sport.
“Full credit to them, they helped me become the rugby player that I am today. I dedicate all these awards to my teammates.
“We’re definitely fighting for that top spot on the World Series this year.”