RBS Six Nations

Lam backs Schmidt to continue with Ireland

Pat Lam has distanced himself from reports linking him with the Ireland job should Joe Schmidt opt not to extend his current contract.

Schmidt is considering whether to pen a new deal with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) that would run until the Rugby World Cup in 2019.

His current contract is due to expire in 2017 and the 50-year-old is reportedly pondering a return to his native New Zealand after nearly a decade in Europe.

Lam - who guided Connacht to the Pro12 title last season - is seen as a potential replacement for Schmidt, but he has backed his fellow Kiwi to remain at the Irish helm.

"It's a big decision, there shouldn't be any rush there," he is quoted as saying by Sky Sports.

"It's totally up to Joe. It's nothing to do with me. My focus is completely on Connacht, the expectations are so high.

"Everyone in Ireland including myself would like Joe to stay and continue the work he's doing.

"The secret of Irish rugby's success is that the provinces and the IRFU, we're all aligned.

"And our role for Connacht Rugby is to be in the top level of European rugby, to have more players playing for Ireland and to have a good representation of indigenous Connacht players.

"So being able to work closely with Joe and to make sure we can provide him a platform of players to play for Ireland is crucial."