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Ireland coach Joe Schmidt on Chiefs radar

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Hamilton based Super Rugby franchise the Chiefs have joined the Highlanders in signalling their interest in signing up Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.

Ireland’s Kiwi coach Schmidt comes off contract in the middle of next year and he has already been linked with the Highlanders for the 2018 season.

Schmidt has been suggested as a potential replacement for All Blacks head coach after the world cup and his chances would be greatly increased if he was coaching in New Zealand.

Fifty-year-old Schmidt has indicated that he would like to return to New Zealand for family reasons and had held a brief chat with rugby bosses in Dunedin.

Chiefs chief executive Andrew Flexman has now revealed that they would also be interested in having him succeed Dave Rennie.

The Chiefs would ideally like to re-sign Rennie but he has expressed an interest in coaching abroad to further his well-established credentials and to travel with family.

“Joe is definitely a guy we’d be interested in having a discussion with,” Chiefs chief executive Andrew Flexman told Stuff.

“I’ve been made aware of the fact there’s the potential for him to look at moving home next year and there’s been some attention around the Highlanders having some interest in him.

“If he was to return, given his pedigree and personal circumstances and the fact he’s coached in the Bay of Plenty, he’s certainly a guy we’d love to talk to.

“Given what he’s achieved in his coaching career if we are looking to appoint a new head coach then he’d be an obvious candidate.”

Flexman stressed that their focus remains on retaining Rennie but acknowledged that they were undergoing succession planning to ensure that they are not left exposed.

“We’re pretty transparent with each other,” Flexman said of Rennie.

“There’s no doubt he’s got interest from Europe – and there’s some serious money circulating in that market these days. We’re well aware of that but we’re working hard to keep him.

“We’re turning our minds to life after Dave Rennie now, albeit the hope being that at the very least we’re not going to have to confront that situation until the end of 2018.

“If I’m brutally honest I think it’s probably 50/50. I don’t think he’s hell-bent on leaving. Such is the nature of the man he craves success and won’t walk into a step-up that’s not ideal. It depends a lot on what’s put in-front of him internationally and where he’s at with his family.”

New Zealand Rugby High Performance manager Don Tricker is also believed to have been in recent contact with Schmidt.

“We continue to have excellent relationships with many New Zealand coaches that are based overseas and ensure they are aware of coaching opportunities within New Zealand,” Tricker said.

“Out of respect to the coaches we prefer to keep these conversations private.”

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