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Joe Schmidt outlines what he will offer the All Blacks as selector

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Richard Heathcote - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

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Much has been made of how Joe Schmidt could impact the All Blacks as they look to change their fortunes leading into the next World Cup.

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It was announced by New Zealand Rugby [NZR] on Tuesday that Schmidt would replace Grant Fox as an independent selector for the All Blacks, a move that has been warmly welcomed by Kiwi fans given his successful coaching credentials.

However, it has been made clear by head coach Ian Foster that Schmidt will be restricted to just a selector’s role at this stage, but that isn’t expected to weigh down his influence in the All Blacks environment by any means.

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In fact, Schmidt pinpointed exactly what will be required of him in his new role when he was unveiled to New Zealand media on Tuesday.

Foster outlined in the wake of NZR’s announcement that Schmidt’s position as a selector isn’t that far detached from a coaching role, but Schmidt detailed the intricacies of what his job will entail and how he can help the All Blacks succeed.

“Having done your homework, for starters,” he said when asked what makes a good selector.

“I’d be a little bit of an analyst geek, so far as looking at players and making sure that I knew a fair bit of how they play the game and, as much as possible, who they are because you tend to play a little bit like the person you are.

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“So, when you try to build a profile and a set of combinations, I think being really thorough is the first thing.

“The second thing is… I’m really keen to hear what the other guys have experienced with the different players, and then trying to build a couple of really positive broader conversations with the whole coaching team around what are they looking to achieve, and how they’re looking to go about it so those players who are selected can fit into and expand through that way of playing.”

Schmidt’s impressive track record of fostering and developing talent from his time in charge of both Ireland and Leinster will no doubt have lingered in Foster’s mind when he took it upon himself to offer him a place in the All Blacks set-up.

Under Schmidt’s watch, both teams flourished in their respective arenas, and much of that had to do with his ability to produce players from the lower echelons of the professional game into world-class talents.

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An example of that, as Schmidt outlined, was his role in identifying props Andrew Porter and Tadhg Furlong in the Leinster academy and developing them through to the point where they are now first-choice starters for Ireland.

“I’m pretty nervous about stepping into this role, to be honest, and that’s just how you feel stepping into an All Black environment, but I think there’s some evidence that’s come through with different teams like Clermont,” Schmidt said of his previous selecting experience.

“Even going back to Bay of Plenty and the Leinster experience. A lot of those guys – Tadhg Furlong, for example – came into Leinster when I was the head coach there and he was in the academy. Andrew Porter came in, those front rowers.

“I identified that they looked big and strong, and then we had good people to work with their skillsets. I think you do get better at it, and it does help when you get experience in there.”

Schmidt added, somewhat interestingly, that a strong sense of objectivity is a must-have in his selector role, one that is also shared by Foster and assistant coach John Plumtree.

Perhaps that is indicative that change is imminent in the All Blacks squad, but given Foster vocalised his eagerness to bring Schmidt’s fresh pair of eyes into the squad, that shouldn’t be unexpected.

“I think they’re people before players, so you get to learn, also, that you have to be fair with everyone, but that doesn’t mean you have to be exactly the same with everyone, and so building those relationships and that trust with players, knowing that you’re going to prioritise the team,” Schmidt said.

“As brutal as that sounds, one of the things about a selector is if you compromise the team to make a selection based on loyalty or based on something that’s not maybe in the best interests of a team, then the team members see through that pretty quickly and that can be complicated in an incredibly interdependent environment.”

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