World Rugby can confirm that Joe Schmidt has decided to leave the organisation at the end of the year to spend more time at home in New Zealand with his family.

The former Ireland and Leinster coach will remain close to the organisation, along with many other current and former coaches, as a member of the High Performance Rugby Committee and Laws Review Group.

Since joining World Rugby as Director of Rugby and High Performance, Schmidt has played an important role in strengthening relationships with his coaching peers, International Rugby Players and other key stakeholders. He has also helped contribute to on-field advances to further player welfare outcomes, including the current global law trials, amendments to the breakdown and the Head Contact Process.

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “While we are sad to be losing Joe, we fully support his reasons and appreciate the strong contributions that he has made to the organisation and the game over the last year.

“His passion for the advancement of the game is tremendous and we are delighted that his expertise and experience will remain at the heart of game-related decision-making as a member of the High Performance Rugby Committee.”

With the global pandemic having restricted movement, and with significant opportunity for reflection, Schmidt has decided that he will continue to reside in New Zealand rather than relocate to Ireland in order to ensure the best possible work-life balance for him and his family.

Schmidt said: “World Rugby have a challenging task bringing together a vast array of stakeholders to grow and future proof the game, particularly with the pandemic creating further complications. I’d like to thank the World Rugby staff for their support and positivity during the past 12 months. There is a real passion amongst them to help the game be all it can be for everyone involved and I have enjoyed my time as part of the team, working in partnership with unions, regions and competitions.

“We have worked very hard in a number of areas, including player welfare initiatives, remaining agile with fixture changes and match officials, law trials, competitions and the support of emerging nations where the Pacific Islands Super Rugby franchises are a good example of some excellent collaborative work.

“I am disappointed to be leaving World Rugby, but look forward to continuing an association with them through the High Performance Rugby Committee and other key working groups.”