Joe Schmidt look set to take an extended break away from coaching at the least, when he parts company with Ireland after the 2019 World Cup.

The IRFU confirmed this morning that Schmidt will step down from his role as Ireland head coach following the World Cup in Japan and that defence coach Andy Farrell will replace him.

While speculation on Schmidt’s future has been intense over the last few months, with him being increasingly linked with the All Blacks, he now says he will 'finish coaching' to focus on his family.

Speaking to the IRFU, he said: "I have decided to finish coaching and will prioritise family commitments after the RWC in 2019.

"I feel that Irish rugby is in good hands. The management and players have been incredible to work with and the tremendous support we have had, particularly at home in the Aviva, but where ever we have travelled has been uplifting.

"Thank you to the IRFU for their support and patience and thanks also to so many people who have adopted my family and me, making us feel part of the community here in Ireland.

"There are some inspiring challenges over the next 11 months so there's plenty of motivation for me to continue working hard, alongside the other management staff, so that the team can be as competitive as possible."

Schmidt is the most successful Irish coach ever and has overseen three Six Nations titles (2014, 2015) including a Grand Slam (2018), a first win on South African soil (2016), a first win over New Zealand (2016) and a series win in Australia (2018).

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director paid tribute to Schmidt’s impact on the landscape of Irish rugby and said, "Joe's contribution to Irish rugby is broader than just the success achieved with the national team.

"He has had a hugely positive influence on the entire professional system with both his rugby intellect and his eagerness to invest in and develop both players and coaches throughout the country.

"In conversations with Joe you got a clear sense that this was a very tough decision for him knowing how much he enjoys working with this group of coaches and players but it is a decision that Joe, Kelly and the kids have made as a family and that is to be respected."