Super Rugby

Schmidt: No agreement with Highlanders

Joe Schmidt said he has not agreed to take the Highlanders job but the Ireland head coach is not ruling out a return to his homeland with the Super Rugby champions.

Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark last week revealed that the Dunedin-based franchise are interested in appointing Schmidt when Tony Brown vacates his post in two years.

Schmidt said his focus is firmly on securing a Test-series victory over South Africa after his side beat the Springboks in the opener last weekend and the New Zealander stated that he has made no decision on his future.

When asked if a deal with Highlanders has already been agreed, the 50-year-old, who is contracted until next year, told Stuff: "No, that was on the back of one conversation that Roger Clark had with me and I have made absolutely no commitment to the Highlanders.

"I've made no commitment to anyone other than my current employers.

"I think it happens to a lot of coaches every so often, because I think that the clubs are always forward planning. Provinces, clubs, franchises know when their staff are coming off contract and therefore they often become aware of when other coaches are coming off contract.

"They find out whether there's any interest or not. I haven't had any more than a very light conversation with Rog and I think they've done a super job down there at the Highlanders.

"I watched their semi-final and final last year. I don't want to go in and muck them up anyway, they look like they're doing just fine anyway by themselves.

"Tony Brown is a guy I know a bit and Scott McLeod and those guys are still going to be around there next year and I don't think, for me, that it's a distraction.

"I haven't even given it any thought to be honest, because the conversation was just before the tour and I've very much got my hands full right now."

He added: "Whatever happens, this [the Ireland job] is the full focus of my attention and the one thing I want to do no matter what happens in the future is I want to leave Irish rugby in as good a shape as possible.

"If that's this time next year or if it’s in three years' time, I'm not sure.

"All I know is that this is something we've got to try to do and we're investing a lot of time and effort into the players, into trying to be as good with a broader group as we possibly can be.

"Hopefully, there'll be some evidence of that this weekend. This was always a chance for us to broaden that and no matter what happens, the coaching group as it is, are in great shape. I have less and less to do with it."