Rugby Union

Ireland contract prevents Joe Schmidt being 2017 Lions coach contender

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Joe Schmidt insists he cannot currently be considered to lead the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand in 2017 because of the constraints of his Ireland contract.

Ireland head coach Schmidt revealed his current contract does not allow him to take the year-long sabbatical the Lions require in the build-up to the 2017 tour.

New Zealander Schmidt and compatriot and Wales boss Warren Gatland are the front-runners to lead the Lions tour next summer.

Gatland remains the favourite, and Schmidt downplayed his chances - though did not discuss whether he has talked to the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) about a possible release.

"To be honest the terms of my current contract don't allow me to do the Lions, so it's actually a moot point," said Schmidt of his chances of leading the Lions.

"It doesn't distract me because it isn't actually something I can unless the terms of my contract change.

"I finish at that time and there's some outside influences on that that will probably dictate anything beyond that.

"So I'm not planning for beyond where my contract finishes, and to be honest, if you're a coach sometimes you don't even get to the finish of it because that's the harsh reality, it's a very success-driven environment."

Schmidt's current Ireland contract expires at the end of June 2017, just as the Lions would be looking to head on tour.

There is no suggestion Schmidt would be constrained by his Ireland role of joining the Lions' backroom staff however.

And that leaves open the potential for Schmidt to work under Gatland, who led the Lions to their 2013 series win in Australia.

Gatland already has a clause in his contract allowing for a sabbatical next year, and Rob Howley led Wales in the Kiwi boss' absence in the lead-up to the 2013 Lions tour.

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