Joe Schmidt: A look at the coaching legend set to take charge of the Wallabies

Fri, Jan 19, 2024, 1:02 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
New Wallabies Head Coach Joe Schmidt speaks to the press alongside Phil Waugh, CEO of Rugby Australia, and Peter Horne, Rugby Australia’s Director of High Performance of Rugby.

The Wallabies have got their man as Joe Schmidt has been unveiled as head coach.

Schmidt has signed a two-year deal, designated the task of turning around their fortunes after last year’s disappointing World Cup exit.

Don’t miss HSBC SVNS Perth in 2024: 26-28 January at HBF Park. Get your tickets now!

When you look at his resume, it’s easy to see why the 58-year-old was at the top of the list for many.

There’s a common theme: winning.

Born in Kawakawa, Northland, he started with success at the third tier with the Bay of Plenty, hoisting the Ranfurly Shield before Europe called, joining Vern Cotter’s Clermont as a backs coach.

He helped them claim their first Top 14 championship in 2010 after finishing runners-up in 2008 and 2009, their 11th appearance in the final.

This attracted the interest of Irish Rugby and Schmidt took over as Leinster coach from Michael Cheika, who was off to Stade Francais.

Instantly, Schmidt claimed the Heineken Cup (now European Rugby Champions Cup) in back-to-back seasons before winning the Pro 12, Challenge Cup and British and Irish Cup treble in 2012-13.

This ensured he was destined for international honours, with Ireland quick to recognise his domestic success with a three-year deal in 2013.

The period saw the Kiwi cement himself as an Irish Rugby legend, claiming the 2014 Six Nations Championship along with maiden wins over the All Blacks and 2018 World Rugby Coach of the Year.

By the time Schmidt departed in 2019, he was established as one of the best coaches in the World.

He was speculated as the next All Blacks coach and whilst Ian Foster held onto the position, Schmidt’s expertise is credited for helping to turn around their fortunes after joining in 2022 as an assistant.

As a coach, Schmidt has built a reputation as a fierce operator with one of the best Rugby brains in the world.

He has a remarkable eye for detail and knowledge of the game, with immense toughness.

This was on display in 2014 when Schmidt celebrated a victory over the Wallabies (a clean sweep of the November tests) with a trip to the hospital, having reportedly burst his appendicitis hours before the 26-23 win in Dublin.

"Guys were aware he was sick, he was kind of stand-offish, he was worried about passing on anything he had," said then captain Paul O’Connell reportedly after the game. "If you hadn't have been told, I don't think anyone would have known."

The respect the All Blacks have for him was evident in the build-up to their quarter-final with his old side Ireland, with Dalton Papalii referring to him as the ‘GOAT’.

“He’s one of the Goats in the coaching world,” Papalii said, spending time with him at the Blues in 2022.

 He has a lot of knowledge of the game and especially for me and Mark, when he came into our Super team last year, he was a real difference-maker, and he did wonders for us

“Coming into this environment, he’s added his flavour and all the boys can feel it. You can’t really explain it. He’s awesome.”

"I’d say Joe knows more than other coaches; he knows the names of [other] players and when he talks about information, he knows a lot of information,” winger Mark Telea added. 

“If you have a conversation with him, he’ll probably know more about you than you. He could probably even ref the game if he wanted to.”

The connection with David Nucifora made Schmidt an obvious candidate, the pair recognised as the architects behind the Irish rise.

Wallabies fans will be hoping he can do the same as they begin the build towards a home World Cup in 2027.