Joe Schmidt will keep driving Ireland to even greater heights whatever the decision on his long-term future, according to prop Dave Kilcoyne.
Ireland boss Schmidt’s contract expires after next year’s World Cup, after which he is expected to return home to New Zealand.
The 53-year-old will publicise the decision on his long-term plans next week, now that Ireland have completed a second-straight autumn Test series clean sweep.
Schmidt has guided Ireland from eighth to second in the world in five years, overseeing three Six Nations titles, one Grand Slam and two wins over back-to-back world champions New Zealand.
Munster’s Kilcoyne admitted Schmidt’s place in Irish history is already secure – but insisted the taskmaster Kiwi is far from sated by Ireland’s success so far.
“I’d never comment on Joe’s future or anything like that,” said Kilcoyne.
“But if you look at the state of Irish rugby at the moment, he has it the healthiest it’s ever been.
“He has created an incredible environment in Irish rugby and that filters right down through the provinces.
“All I can say is, long may it continue and let’s keep pushing the standards.”
Ireland thumped the United States 57-14 in Dublin on Saturday to round off a fine autumn series in some style, with Andrew Conway bagging an impressive hat-trick.
Schmidt made 14 changes from the side which toppled New Zealand 16-9 the previous week, offering another stark reminder of Ireland’s ever-increasing strength in depth.
New Zealand have retained their number one world ranking despite that defeat to second-placed Ireland, but many outside observers now rate Schmidt’s men top of the pile.
All Blacks boss Steve Hansen believes Ireland’s victory over his side means Schmidt’s men deserve to be branded the world’s best Test team.
The USA head coach Gary Gold backed up that assertion after Saturday’s Dublin clash, tipping Ireland as World Cup favourites.
Kilcoyne insists the ever-alert Schmidt will have no trouble ignoring such talk however.
Asked if Schmidt is the perfect man to keep Ireland grounded, Kilcoyne replied: “Absolutely, yeah; he’s the man driving the system here and he’s the head coach who has done some incredible things over the last few years.
“Just look back to last week alone, that (win over New Zealand) was absolutely monumental, it will go down in the history books, so that’s all you can ask, to have that level of command at the top.
“Then every player pushes themselves as hard as they can in the environment, and it drives the environment, and that brings the best out in everyone, especially with that competition for places; it’s great.”
Ireland’s impressive depth of talent means some quality players will face a fight for selection for next year’s World Cup.
Despite chances to impress in the Test arena being limited in that regard though, Kilcoyne insisted none of Ireland’s players can afford to fret about the long-term picture.
“I think you saw how hungry lads were to be involved,” said Kilcoyne.
“That competitiveness within Irish rugby is exactly where it needs to be.
“I wouldn’t even be looking at the Six Nations yet, because there’s massive games to come with the club.
“But you’ve got to take every opportunity, because the coaching staff here don’t miss a beat.
“We’ll be under the microscope again next week and that’s a real testament to how effective and how honest an appraisal you’ll get.
“You’re constantly getting that kind of honest feedback, that’s all you can ask and that’s great.”