Lam backs Schmidt to remain as Ireland coach

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt should take his time in deciding his future, says Connacht coach Pat Lam.

Schmidt is considering whether or not to extend his contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) to the 2019 World Cup. Schmidt's current contract is due to expire in 2017 as he considers returning to his native New Zealand.

Lam has been earmarked as a potential successor to Schmidt with Ireland but the former Samoa international is keen for the New Zealander to stay where he is.

"It's a big decision, there shouldn't be any rush there," Lam told the Belfast Telegraph of Schmidt's call on whether to remain Ireland's coach.

"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. So I see our role in that is just as crucial as the other three provinces," Lam said.