Wallabies coach Schmidt backs 'natural leader' Wright for Wales clash

Thu, Jul 4, 2024, 6:00 AM
AW
by AAP and Nathan Williamson
Liam Wright steps up to lead the Wallabies against Wales. Photo: Getty Images
Liam Wright steps up to lead the Wallabies against Wales. Photo: Getty Images

Joe Schmidt has elevated "natural leader" Liam Wright to Wallabies skipper for his first Test side since replacing Eddie Jones as coach.

Wright is the seventh Wallabies captain appointed in little more than a year, following on from Michael Hooper, James Slipper, Allan Alaalatoa, Will Skelton, Tate McDermott and Dave Porecki, who all led the side during Jones' 10-month tenure.

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The blindside flanker has captained the Queensland Reds since 2020 and will lead his country for the first time in Australia's opening Test of the year against Wales in Sydney on Saturday night.

"Liam, he's really understated. He's a leader in a Super Rugby team anyway, and so he's got that leadership experience," Schmidt said.

"He was identified by the players as a natural leader in the group. He's a lineout caller, so he already has a responsibility in the team.

"Not that he calls all the lineouts, but it's one of the things that he contributes to.

"So what all the coaches liked about Liam is, he doesn't really say that much. He just gets on and gets the job done really well."

But asked if he viewed the 26-year-old as a long-term captain, Schmidt said: "At the moment, everything's pretty short-term, including our preparation.

"For this weekend, it was a discussion around who's likely to stay on for a long period of time, who already has a responsibility in the team.

"Not all the players that were selected wanted the responsibility either. Some players just want to get on and get their own job done, and while Liam didn't put himself forward, he's accepted the challenge."

Wright joins Reds teammate Fraser McReight and the Brumbies' reigning John Eales medallist Rob Valetini in Australia's starting back row.

Schmidt, still getting to know most of the players, said club combinations were key to many tight selection calls.

"We were trying to get balance in a whole lot of ways," he said.

"Some of it is around guys who already have a relationship in their Super (teams), so we've got Tate and Tom coming off the bench. They've got a really good relationship.

"You've got Hunter and Josh in the middle of the field. There's a few combinations like that."

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