New Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt
New Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt is thinking local when it comes to player selection. Image by Max Mason-Hubers/AAP PHOTOS
  • rugby union

Coach Schmidt officially in the Wallabies hot seat

Melissa Woods March 1, 2024

Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt is thinking local when it comes to player selection and his assistants as he settles into his new role.

Schmidt spent his first official day as Australia’s coach in Melbourne, where he will take in Super Round, with all 12 teams playing at AAMI Park over the weekend.

A Kiwi who steered Ireland to world No.1 in his six years at the helm and who was part of New Zealand’s push to the final at last year’s Rugby World Cup, Schmidt said he was excited by the challenge that lay ahead with Australia.

He is looking to revive the Wallabies’ fortunes after their historic pool-round exit under then coach Eddie Jones.

Schmidt admitted he had already started compiling a dossier on players, including video clips, and had started putting together possible line-ups in his head.

Jones was given freedom to pick as many overseas-based  players as he wished, but Schmidt said that, based on his experience with Ireland, he was leaning towards those playing in Australia.

“As much as possible I think it’s really important to keep the best players in the country if we can – we want to be competitive in Super Rugby,” Schmidt said.

“You want to be able to kind of have a management plan to be able to track the players and have the opportunity to see them first-hand and connect first-hand.

“Marika Koroibete, Samu Kerevi – there are guys around who are long-term Wallabies who are really impressive, but my gut feel at the moment, if it’s 50:50, even maybe 60:40 I’d like to go with the home-based player as much as possible, without utterly committing myself to that.”

With one round of Super Rugby completed, Schmidt emphasised that it was a clean slate in terms of selection, giving hope to those cast aside by Jones.

“This is a fresh lens for me, which means it’s a fresh opportunity for them, and I’d just love them to step up and grab it really,” he said.

“There’s some young players that I didn’t really know that well that have done quite well, and there’s been some other guys who’ve probably been a bit patchy, but the thing that I’ve learned is that you don’t pull the trigger and make assessments quickly.”

Schmidt plans to leave selection for the three-Test series against Wales, which starts in Sydney on July 6, until as late as possible.

He said the squad would only have a three-day training camp and then the Test week to prepare. 

Before that he hopes to have a short-list of assistant coaches and other staff completed by the end of the month, again preferring those with inside knowledge of the players, rather than recruiting from overseas.

With the future of the financially wrecked Melbourne Rebels appearing grim, Schmidt was undecided in his early tenure as Wallabies coach about whether the current five teams or four was best for the national side.

“There’s no perfect formula,” he said.

“South Africa’s really competitive and they play all across the world and then come together.

“Then you have teams in contrast, like Ireland and the All Blacks, who select internally exclusively, and they work really well together.

“Cohesion is a really important element, but I’m not saying it’s the only element, and the opportunity for a greater breadth of player to get Super level experience is great, but that means there’s maybe a little less cohesion when you’re across five teams, as opposed to four.

“So I think there’s pros and cons, and I haven’t been in this situation before.”