Wallabies coach Schmidt buoyed on by Lions series

Mon, Mar 18, 2024, 5:39 AM
by AAP
Joe Schmidt is encouraged by Australia's form in SRP as they start looking ahead to the Test and Lions series. Photo: Getty Images
Joe Schmidt is encouraged by Australia's form in SRP as they start looking ahead to the Test and Lions series. Photo: Getty Images

Joe Schmidt is encouraged by the Australian clubs' form in Super Rugby as he admits a competitive showing against the British and Irish Lions next year could play a big factor in whether or not he stays on to coach at the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

Schmidt signed on as the replacement for Eddie Jones for only two years as he juggles family commitments including the care of his son Luke, who has epilepsy.

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The Kiwi has been splitting his time between Australia and working remotely from his home at Lake Taupo on New Zealand's North Island since being appointed in January.

As much as the lure of playing for the Wallabies at a home World Cup in four years is a big one, so it seems the case for the coach.

Tickets for the 2025 Lions tour went on sale on Monday, when Schmidt made it clear he was using the once-a-generation three-Test match-up as something of a barometer for the Wallabies and how they are tracking two years out from the next global showpiece.

Schmidt said he was using the initial part of his reign to "reset" after Australia's disastrous 10-month campaign under Jones last year when the Wallabies failed to progress out of the World Cup group stages for the first time and lost seven of nine Tests.

Now at an all-time low at No.10 in the world, the Wallabies will face the best of the best from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, who are all ranked above Australia, when they take on the Lions.

"I've given myself, I guess, a foundation period where if we can get that done, then we can build again from there," said 58-year-old Schmidt who hired veteran forwards coach Laurie Fisher, 65, last week as his first assistant.

"It's a little bit promising at the moment and the discussions I've had with (Australian) Super Rugby coaches have been really, really positive so far.

"There's been some positives in those small steps and it's about not being outcome-focused, it's about building a process and how we deliver what we do.

"So if we can build that over the next four months (before the Test season starts) and then through the next period of time with the national team, I think it will give us the springboard to be competitive with the Lions."

Asked directly if his decision to stay on until the 2027 World Cup would be based on Australia's performance against the Lions, Schmidt said: "We're a bit of an aged staff with myself and Laurie, so we're going to need something to keep us going."

"But one of the things that I love about rugby is it does make you feel a little bit youthful because you're working with young men who are incredibly motivated.

"So you get kind of dragged along with that energy that they bring and so I don't have any doubts about the energy that Laurie and I will bring."

Schmidt has also brought on Irish analyst Eoin Toolan and says he will finalise his support staff in the coming weeks - and that it won't be a big team.

"I've worked with Eoin before as well and I think his eye for detail around the game will be an asset for us as well," said the respected mentor who guided Ireland to the top world ranking for the first time.

"You'll see over the next week or two that we will be fleshing that stuff out by another one or two people in the coaching area.

"And then we'll build the rest of the backroom staff around the strength and conditioning, the medical side of it, the nutritional side of it, but we won't have a massive staff.

"It'll be a fairly small select group."

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