The IRFU have confirmed one of the worst kept secrets in Irish rugby by naming Joe Schmidt as the new Ireland head coach.

The current Leinster head coach, who has led his side to the final of this season's Amlin Challenge Cup, is expected to take the Ireland hotseat in time for the Autumn international series.

The New Zealander has been an unqualified success in his time in charge of Leinster, guiding them to back-to-back Heineken Cup triumphs in 2011 and 2012.

Schmidt succeeds Declan Kidney who parted company with the IRFU after a disappointing Six Nations campaign in which Ireland finished fifth and dropped to ninth in the IRB World Rankings.

Schmidt is thought to have been offered a three-year contract that runs until 2016 - a tenure that will include the 2015 World Cup hosted by England. 

There will be an IRFU press conference at 4pm in the Aviva Stadium in which the organisation's Chief Executive Philip Browne is expected to reveal more details on Schmidt's appointment.

Schmidt is understood to have beaten off competition from Ireland defensive coach Les Kiss and Queensland Reds head coach Ewen McKenzie for the Ireland job.

Kiss, who has been operating as Ireland's caretaker head-coach since the departure of Kidney, still looks likely to lead the summer tour to the United States and Canada.

The autumn internationals against Samoa, Australia and New Zealand are expected to be Schmidt's first matches in charge.

Attention will now turn to Leinster who are tasked with replacing a head coach who enjoyed a hugely successful reign.

The Blues have been linked to Leicester Tigers head coach Matt O'Connor, who has reportedly already held talks with the province.

Former Irish international Hugo MacNeill welcomed the appointment.

"Joe Schmidt was the outstanding candidate, not just on the national level but on the international level. If you had your choice he would be the person," he said speaking to RTÉ.

"He has taken on the Leinster project and built on them being European Champions. He has worked with an outstanding group of players to set standards of consistency and excellence in achievement that is so strong."

RTÉ’s rugby commentator Michael Corcoran also welcomed the IRFU’s decision.

"It’s a huge boost for Irish rugby that Joe Schmidt is now going to turn his attention to the international game having been so successful with Leinster.

"It’s a really welcome appointment. He has been the stand-out candidate simply because of his track record. He has led Leinster to two Heineken Cup wins and the final of the Amlin Challenge Cup. They are also just one win away from securing a home semi-final in the RaboDirect PRO12 this season.

"It’s expected he will sign a three-year contract which will take him up to the end of the 2015/2016 season, which will take in the 2015 World Cup and the 2016 Six Nations.

"The IRFU have gone through a pretty rigorous interview process over the past few weeks, but I think it was narrowed down to two people, Joe Schmidt and Les Kiss, and there is a distinct possibility that Les Kiss could form part of the new backroom team.

"This year was a rather disappointing one from an international point of view, but he will inherit a squad of players many of whom have played international rugby two or three years ahead of what was anticipated."

"I think he is the right man, in the right place, at the right time."