Exclusive: Wallabies to turn to Kiwi Schmidt as Eddie Jones’ replacement
Almost three months after Eddie Jones sensationally quit Australian rugby, the Wallabies are set to unveil their next coach with Joe Schmidt expected to return to the international head coaching fold.
While Rugby Australia has both publicly and privately been flagging a late February announcement, The Roar can reveal that Schmidt’s deal with the governing body is essentially done.
Senior players were invited onto a call on Wednesday night where they were told of the news.
The development is likely to be welcomed by the playing group, with Schmidt regarded as one of the best rugby minds in the business.
The move comes not a second too late, with RA playing catch up in what is the most important four-year World Cup cycle in the governing body’s history.
Schmidt’s appointment will also see him go head-to-head with his former assistant coach, Andy Farrell, who earlier this week was announced as next year’s British and Irish Lions coach.
A former teacher, Schmidt is considered a student of the game and is known for his meticulous and forensic approach to coaching.
After stints with Clermont and Leinster, Schmidt oversaw Ireland between 2013 and 2019 and led the Emerald Isle to three Six Nations crowns, including the 2018 grand slam.
Although Ireland never progressed past the quarter-finals in two World Cups, he enjoyed a 72 per cent win record and took the nation to the top of the World Rugby rankings in 2018.
Schmidt also oversaw Ireland’s first success over the All Blacks, as they toppled the then-world champions in Chicago.
Two years later, Ireland once again downed the All Blacks to post their first home win over the rugby powerhouse nation.
Schmidt stepped away from coaching in 2019 and joined World Rugby’s high-performance team, before jumping back into the coaching realm with the Blues and then the All Blacks as a selector.
Following the All Blacks’ shock home series loss to Ireland in 2022, New Zealand Rugby rejigged Ian Foster’s coaching set up which saw Schmidt and Crusaders forwards coach Jason Ryan join the team.
The move proved to be a masterstroke, with the All Blacks immediately rediscovering their lethal touch.
It culminated in the All Blacks winning last year’s Rugby Championship, before they went on to reach the final of the World Cup.
Schmidt has been linked to a move to the Wallabies for the best part of two months, but RA’s decision to appoint Peter Horne, who worked with the New Zealander at World Rugby, as director of high performance meant there was an obvious link between the two.
Should he indeed be confirmed as Wallabies coach, he will be the third New Zealander to coach Australia after Robbie Deans and Dave Rennie.
Many believed Schmidt wouldn’t touch the Wallabies coaching job after Rennie was ruthlessly sacked less than 12 months out from the World Cup.
Indeed, had former RA chairman Hamish McLennan still been in the job, Schmidt wouldn’t have given serious thought to it.
But a change of leadership at RA saw Schmidt change his tune.
Who Schmidt will assemble to join his Wallabies coaching team remains to be seen, but it’s highly likely several of his assistants will come out of the respective Super Rugby programs.
Daniel Halangahu, the highly respected assistant coach at the Blues who played alongside RA boss Waugh at the Waratahs, could also be someone on RA’s radar.
Schmidt will have a huge job on his hands trying to pick the Wallabies up following last year’s World Cup disaster, which culminated in Jones walking out on the game one season into a five-year deal.
Unlike Schmidt’s previous head coaching job with Ireland, he won’t be working in a centralised system, nor be able to base his national team around a powerhouse club like Leinster.