George Hook: Joe Schmidt's contract extension may have led to Pat Lam's Connacht departure

"There were no promotion prospects" in Irish rugby according to the Newstalk presenter

BY Daniel Kelly 14:36 Monday 5 December 2016, 14:36 5 Dec 2016

Connacht head coach Pat Lam Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Pat Lam's exit from Connacht may have been influenced by Joe Schmidt's contract extension with Ireland.

That's the view of Newstalk's George Hook, who was speaking after Lam's move to Bristol was confirmed on Monday morning.

Schmidt signed a contract extension to lead Ireland up to the end of the 2019 World Cup, in October. When Schmidt's future was unknown, Lam was one of the favourites for the position.

Speaking to Newstalk.com, the High Noon presenter, cited three reasons why he felt Lam called time on a historic four-year spell in Galway.

"Pat Lam would have looked at the extension of Joe Schmidt, and seen that there were no promotion prospects [within Irish rugby]."

"He won the Pro12 against what I believe all the odds. Despite the way they play, he knows that will be hard to replicate."

"He knows that he is in charge of a province that gets the least amount of money and support from the IRFU. If he delivers an outstanding player like Robbie Henshaw, he knows that Henshaw will move to Leinster at the first available opportunity. In that sense, it's not a great job."

The move to Bristol is an intriguing one. The Premiership side look set to be relegated from the English top-tier having failed to win any of their opening ten league games. Last season's Pro12 Coach of the Year, could be spending next season in the English Championship.

"Bristol are going to give him more money than he is probably getting at the moment. Ultimately it's a better chance of achieving something, like getting Bristol into the forefront of English rugby once again. It's entirely understandable. It doesn't mean it's not disappointing, but it's predictable."

"They probably realise they are going into the second tier [next season]... They are looking at it and saying; "If we go down, we want somebody to bring us back up again". That's the view of getting Lam."

Despite his success at Connacht, Hook is unsure if the former Samoan captain will fit in as seamlessly in the West Country.

"There's not a certainty he can do it. Different clubs and different chief executives make a huge difference. He had everything rolling for him in Galway. He had the support of the crowd and the support of Willie Ruane, who is an outstanding Chief Executive."

The unexpected departure of Lam, leaves an attractive position open in Irish rugby. Only one of the top five coaching jobs in Ireland is currently held by an Irishman [Leo Cullen], and Hook would love to see a domestic coach replace Lam, but he's not holding his breath.

"I'd love to see an Irish coach. You see where Michael Bradley [Georgia defence coach] is. You see where Eddie O'Sullivan is now. Irish coaches don't have currency abroad for some strange reason. If you look at what Eddie Jones did for England and what Pat Lam did at Connacht, if you get the right guy, then you get the right answer."

Pat Lam's successor will arrive in Galway with the team in a better position than what Lam found it in in 2013. The next Connacht head coach will look to advance the team on to another level.

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