Sports

Schmidt named Wallabies coach on 2-year deal

Rugby Australia have confirmed former Ireland head coach and All Blacks assistant Joe Schmidt will take over as Wallabies boss for the next two seasons, taking him to at least the end of the 2025 British and Irish Lions tour.

Close to three months after Eddie Jones sensationally quit the role following a horror World Cup campaign that saw the Wallabies fail to reach the quarterfinals for the first time, and just over a year to the day Jones was handed the keys to the Wallabies for his home coming, Rugby Australia unveiled the New Zealander on Friday.

While expressions of interest for the coaching role closed just last week, it’s been well known RA have been keen on Schmidt since Jones’ resignation, with the signing of new High-Performance director Peter Horne and David Nucifora in an advisory role providing an obvious connection with the coach after he worked with both at World Rugby and Ireland respectively.

The former head coach of Ireland from 2013 to 2019, the New Zealander led the team to three Six Nations crowns, including a 2018 grand slam, and most famously their first win over the All Blacks and a World No.1 ranking. He later stepped away from his role to work in World Rugby’s high-performance team before he returned to New Zealand to work with Super Rugby club the Blues, and then the All Blacks as a selector and assistant coach.

Schmidt will take on the role from March 1 with his assistant coaches to be unveiled over the coming weeks. It gives the 58-year-old just a few months to prepare for the Wales series in July, with an eye on next year’s Lions tour.

“I am conscious that the Wallabies have weathered a difficult period, and I am keen to help them build a way forward, with greater alignment and clear direction from RA,” Schmidt said in a release.

“The upcoming Test matches against Wales will arrive quickly, post-Super Rugby, and the program through to the British and Irish Lions Tour next year presents plenty of opportunities and challenges – which I am sure will invigorate players and staff.

“I am looking forward to connecting with Super Rugby coaches, RA staff, and getting to observe and meet players in the coming months.”

Schmidt will report directly to Horne in a new high-performance structure RA hope will bring clearer alignment between all programs in Australia. Horne was a leading driver in the recruitment of Schmidt to the Wallabies.

“It has been a thorough process to make sure that we have landed the best and most suitable candidate – conducted by a panel including Dan Herbert and Phil Waugh, Joe Roff, John Eales, David Nucifora, RA’s head of people and culture and myself,” Horne said.

“It was a unanimous decision to appoint Joe – everyone on the panel was impressed by his demeanour, his calm and logical approach to the game, as well as his communication style.

“Throughout his career, Joe has demonstrated an ability to take a leadership role in structural reform while developing a strong culture and world-class players.

“From my personal experience working with Joe at World Rugby, he is an ideal fit for the Wallabies and Australian Rugby at this time, and I am looking forward to working closely with him on developing a stronger alignment with our Super Rugby clubs to maximise our performances.”

Previously working in centralized systems in both Ireland and New Zealand, Schmidt is perfectly placed to help guide RA as they attempt to create their own unified system which saw the recruitment of Horne and Nucifora in December.

“Given our stated plan to build a unified Australian Rugby system, Joe’s experience with Ireland and New Zealand – two of the most aligned Rugby nations in the world – will no doubt prove valuable as we move forward,” RA chief executive Phil Waugh said.

“He has a global view of the game from his experience in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and his appointment puts us in a strong position as we build towards the 2025 British and Irish Lions Tour.”

Schmidt’s signing sets up a mouthwatering clash with Lions boss Andy Farrell, his former Ireland assistant coach.

Schmidt will become the third New Zealander to take on the Wallabies gig, following Robbie Deans and Dave Rennie into the role with Rennie unceremoniously dumped from the position less than 12 month from the World Cup.

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