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Joe Schmidt on why his start date as an All Black selector is after the Ireland series

By Ben Smith
Joe Schmidt and Andy Farrell. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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Incoming All Blacks selector Joe Schmidt will have to get up to speed on where he thinks the All Blacks are in the World Cup cycle, admitting he hasn’t seen enough of them compared to the Northern teams at this point.

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Schmidt will first link up with the Blues for their Super Rugby Pacific campaign and won’t start his role as All Blacks selector until early August, giving him time to assess the players during their July series against Ireland.

“I probably haven’t had a closer look at them as I have those northern hemisphere teams,” he told media.

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Pablo Matera and Scott Robertson speak to the media
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Pablo Matera and Scott Robertson speak to the media

“One of the jobs I’m going to do as soon as I finish with the Blues, which is a more immediate priority, is to get a really good look at the three tests against Ireland in July, and also get a decent look back at them.

“I know some of the players of having to try and contain them in the past and succeeding, and seriously not succeeding, in doing that, and I certainly know them pretty well
from an external perspective.

“Some of them, I hate to even say it, I’ve known since they were babies, just because I’m a Kiwi and I knew some of their dads growing up, so it’d be nice to get alongside Fozzy and Plum and the coaching team and have a decent look at who and how things can be best put together.”

The former Irish coach says part of his decision to start in August is out of respect for the IRFU, his previous employer where he first coached at Leinster in 2010 and then the national side from 2013-19.

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Ireland were incredibly successful under Schmidt, winning three Six Nations titles including a Grand Slam in 2018 and becoming the world’s number one ranked side for the first time in 2019.

Schmidt says he has had ‘lots of messages’ from his former colleagues but they are appreciative of how Schmidt will eventually be plotting against them as it is now the professionalism required in the game.

“Probably to a degree, yes,” he said when asked if his start date was out of respect to the IRFU.

“I’ve had lots of messages and they’re all great, because the reality is Faz [Andy Farrell] is in charge of Ireland at the moment.

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“We stole him out of the English coaching barrell, and Stuart Lancaster’s coaching Leinster, who provide the bulk of the Irish squad at the moment.

“They’re both ex-England. They coached England together, so there’s a reality around the professional and the international game that it’s competition to get people into places, so they’ll appreciate that and I’m sure they appreciate the fact that I’m not that keen to get started until early August, and it’ll give me a chance to sit back.

“I’ve got my brother’s place just down the road from us, and we’ve booked that for a number of Irish visitors during the July window, so we will have a lot of Irish visitors during that window, provided the country is open enough for those people to get in and out of here.

“If some of those people come along, I’ll be able to keep pretty quiet during that series.”

Having stepped down as head coach of Ireland following the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Schmidt says he is looking forward to getting ‘on the ground’ more with his new role as a selector, which was less of a focus with the management demands of a head coaching role.

“I think it’s something I’m looking forward to, to be honest, because a lot of head coaching is kind of managing up and out, and not quite so much getting the time that you really want with the feet on the ground doing the job,” he said.

“I’m actually looking forward to doing a little less of that management and just putting a bit of headspace around player performance and development, and then the sorts of combinations that Fozzy and the team are looking for so that I can best complement what they’re looking to put into place.”

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