Former All Blacks coach Joe Schmidt is being touted as a strong candidate to succeed Eddie Jones and lead the Wallabies into the next Rugby World Cup.
It comes after former All Blacks head coach Ian Foster and his assistant, Schmidt, were linked to a role at French Top 14 side Montpellier.
Schmidt, the former Ireland head coach with a successful track record in the global tournaments of 2015 and 2019, is highly respected in the rugby world.
Having played a crucial role in the revival of New Zealand rugby since joining Foster’s backroom team in July 2022, Schmidt was part of the team that narrowly missed lifting the World Cup. Despite their efforts, the Springboks secured a 12-11 victory in the final under Jacques Nienaber’s leadership.
Changes occurred after the World Cup, with Scott Robertson replacing Foster as the head coach of the All Blacks, and Schmidt departing. In the aftermath of Jones’ resignation, Schmidt has emerged as a potential fit for Australia.
Jones had reportedly taken part in a Zoom interview for the vacant Japan head coaching role just before the World Cup. Jones resigned last month, less than 10 months into a five-year deal. He has since said he is interested in the Japan job. In a recent interview, rugby legend Sonny Bill Williams launched a scathing attack on the former Wallabies coach, questioning his character and labelling his actions as “comical”.
Eoin Toolan, a former Ireland performance analyst, expressed his thoughts on the coaching search in the Rugby Weekly Extra podcast, suggesting that nationality might not be the deciding factor for the new coach. Toolan commended Schmidt’s impact on New Zealand’s World Cup journey, stating that Schmidt’s involvement likely played a crucial role in their advancement to the final.
“I’ve got to say, I think the job Joe Schmidt did with New Zealand… I don’t think they’re making a World Cup final if Joe Schmidt doesn’t come in and bail out Ian Foster. That would be an intriguing appointment, particularly if it was in tandem with David Nucifora. We saw the positive impact they had on Irish rugby.”
Nucifora, who is expected to leave the Irish Rugby Football Union in 2024, is an ideal option for Australian rugby, Toolan said. However, he acknowledges the timing challenges, with Nucifora committed to Paris 2024 and the British and Irish Lions series approaching.
Dan McKellar and Stephen Larkham have also been linked to the Wallabies’ role, with Toolan saying there is “no shortage” of candidates.
“There will be multiple candidates. Does Dan McKellar come back from Leicester or does he need some time out of the Australia game and start to build some experience in the northern hemisphere? That would probably be a good thing for the longevity of his career. Stephen Larkham is the other name being bandied about down here. He had a pretty good first year back at the Brumbies and learned a lot from his time in Munster.
“It’s still an attractive role given that it’s the 2025 Lions into a home World Cup in 2027 and the talent is there if they’re coached correctly. They probably need to tweak the Giteau Law [for players based abroad] and look at what they do with Super Rugby.”
As the Wallabies aim to rebound from a disappointing 2023, which saw their early exit from the World Cup pool stages, various candidates are being considered for the coaching role. The list includes individuals with experience in the Australian coaching set-up, such as McKellar and Larkham.
Rugby Australia faces a decision between securing the right candidate promptly and waiting for an ideal but potentially delayed appointment. The next few weeks are expected to reveal developments in this coaching transition.
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