Schmidt rules out being part of 2017 Lions coaching staff

DUBLIN (AP) Joe Schmidt says he'd prefer to keep developing Ireland's players than help coach the British and Irish Lions next year in New Zealand.

Schmidt ruled himself out of contention for Lions coach in January, but re-signing as Ireland coach to 2019 last month allowed him to take up any role with the Lions.

Lions boss Warren Gatland praised Schmidt this week, and said there was an ''opportunity'' and ''potential'' for his fellow New Zealander to be involved in the Lions coaching staff, which will be named on Dec. 7.

But Schmidt has declined the chance again.

He wants to lead the Irish on their own tour in June when they play the United States, and two more tests in Japan.

''A big part of the motivation for me not being involved in the Lions was to go to the USA and Japan, and work with this next cadre of players,'' Schmidt said in the buildup to facing Canada on Saturday in Dublin. ''Because the best of our players will go on the Lions, and the more the better.

''Hopefully a few of them put their hands up with Gats in (Chicago for the historic win over the All Blacks) on Saturday. But the ones that don't go, that's going to be a really interesting group for us and, for me, I want to make sure I get to know those guys.''

Schmidt hopes his defence coach, Andy Farrell, is taken again by the Lions. Farrell was on Gatland's Lions staff as the defence coach in 2013 in Australia. The Lions won that series 2-1.