The Irish Rugby Football Union’s chief executive believes Ireland can continue to win trophies even if coach Joe Schmidt leaves after the World Cup.
Philip Browne said it would be “great” if Schmidt continues after Japan 2019 but says structures are in place to absorb his loss if he moves on.
“The reality is no-one can be indispensable,” said Browne.
New Zealander Schmidt, 53, is to make his future intentions known after the autumn Tests.
Schmidt has led Ireland to three Six Nations crowns, including this year’s Grand Slam season, but his current deal expires after the World Cup.
Browne addressed supporters’ fears of losing the man credited with turning Ireland into a serious World Cup contender as he outlined the IRFU’s strategic vision for the coming seasons.
In the next five years the union wants to deliver at least two more Six Nations titles, consistently rank in the world’s top three and secure the country’s first place in a World Cup semi-final, either next year or at the 2023 tournament.
“I think Joe has said he will have a better idea as to where he’s at after the autumn internationals, so I would imagine by the end of the year we’ll be in a position where we know what his plans are,” said Browne.
“When we know what his plans are, that at least gives us the opportunity to get on with our plans.”
Browne said he had not received any approaches from other unions or clubs interested in securing Schmidt’s services.
“The reality is the plan can’t be built around one person, it has to be built around systems, processes and structures.”
“The reality is nobody can be indispensable. Having said that, it would be great if Joe stays.
“Equally, if he goes, we have to deal with it and the best way to deal with it is making sure we have a set of systems and processes in place that are effectively robust and aren’t dependent on one individual – that’s the reality.
“Discussions are happening with Joe so hopefully, as he has indicated himself, once the November internationals are over and done with he’ll have some time to think about what he’s doing.”
IRFU performance director David Nucifora echoed the chief executive’s confidence that continuity would be achieved if Schmidt left.
“A lot of the success is down to Joe, he’s driven a lot of really good things in the Irish game, not just in the national team,” said Nucifora.
“But part of his strength is to make sure he’s built a team that can carry those things on, carry them forward. Any good programme has to be sustainable and a lot of work we do is about that, it’s about being sustainable.
“And you know regardless of whether Joe decides to stay or go he’ll be the first one to tell you he’d be confident we’ve built something sustainable and we’ll be continuing to focus on that.”
‘Not satisfied with where we are’
Having delivered an historic series win in Australia this summer, Ireland are full of confidence going into a much-anticipated autumn showdown with the All Blacks in Dublin next month.
Ireland are now second only to New Zealand in the world rankings but Nucifora insisted Ireland wanted to “win everything”.
“I think we’ve only just scratched the surface on how good Irish rugby can be,” he said.
“We are not satisfied with where we are at the moment, either nationally or provincially.
“We’ve got to continually find ways to get better. We are pumping so much time, effort and finance into the development of the game in his country to make sure young players have the opportunity to be the best they can be.”
Ireland begin their series of autumn fixtures with a match against Italy at Soldier Field in Chicago on 3 November, followed by games against Argentina, New Zealand and the USA in Dublin on successive Saturdays.