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Joe Schmidt’s update on Liam Wright and Wallabies’ captaincy call

By Finn Morton
Jake Gordon, James Slipper and Liam Wright of the Wallabies sing the national anthem during the men's International Test match between Australia Wallabies and Wales at Allianz Stadium on July 06, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Coach Joe Schmidt has explained that last week’s captain Liam Wright is “a good chance” of playing Georgia in Sydney despite being ruled out of this weekend’s clash with Wales at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.

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Wright, 26, became the 89th Wallabies captain last Saturday as the Australians recorded a memorable 25-16 win over Wales. It seemed to be an overwhelmingly successful outing for the skipper who had returned to the Test arena for the first time in almost four years.

With Eddie Jones picking six different captains during his coaching reign with the Wallabies last year, Wright became the seventh man in 12 months to take up that role. But as the Aussies prepare for their second Test of the year, there’s been another change.

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Joe Schmidt and Liam Wright after Wallabies win over Wales

Coach Joe Schmidt and captain Liam Wright spoke to media following their 25-16 win over Wales in Sydney. Wright became the 89th captain of Australia when he led the side out for the first time in front of more than 35,00

Video Spacer

Joe Schmidt and Liam Wright after Wallabies win over Wales

Coach Joe Schmidt and captain Liam Wright spoke to media following their 25-16 win over Wales in Sydney. Wright became the 89th captain of Australia when he led the side out for the first time in front of more than 35,00

Veteran prop James Slipper, who was one of the men handed the leadership role by former coach Jones, will captain Australia for the 15th time. Slipper has been entrusted with the responsibility after Wright was ruled out with an injury.

“Slips isn’t massively keen on, he just leads himself really well, Slips,” coach Joe Schmidt told reporters on Thursday.

“He’ll do a great job. Fantastic experience and it’s that quiet leadership that we’ll need and the quiet that he brings to his work will hopefully ripple through the team.”

Without Wright, the Wallabies have been forced into a backrow reshuffle with enforcer Rob Valetini shifting from the back of the scrum to blindside flanker. Fraser McReight will line up at openside, while Charlie Cale has been named for his first Test start at No. 8.

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Cale debuted off the pine last weekend in Sydney, as the Beecroft junior’s rapid rise within Australian rugby continues. The ACT Brumbies bruiser was sensational during Super Rugby Pacific this season.

But there is good news for Wright, the Wallabies and fans of Australian rugby with last week’s captain expected to recover in time for a clash with Georgia later this month. Following the second Test against Wales, the Aussies will return to Sydney for that match on July 20.

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“He’ll be a good chance for next week but this week was just too tight, he got a decent whack on the shoulder,” Schmidt explained.

“He ran really well today. There’s no other elements of his fitness that we’re worried about, just having full function of his shoulder for a number six is pretty important, particularly as good as he is at the lineout.

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“We’ve got confidence in the squad. It’s good for young Charlie to get a start and good for Langi [Gleeson] to get off the bench and get involved.

“I think it’s one of the things that we want to demonstrate that we’re a squad-orientated group.”

Coach Schmidt was all smiles on Thursday and Wallabies Langi Gleeson and Matt Faessler were both positive themselves ahead of the Welsh clash. The Aussies are coming off a win and they’ll be looking to build on some confidence by going 2-0.

From the outside looking in, it might seem a little concerning that the Wallabies have had to change their captain again, but Wales coach Warren Gatland certainly doesn’t see it that way as Cymru look to snap an eight-Test losing streak.

“I don’t think it’s going to change too much when you’ve got someone as experienced as James Slipper in terms of coming in to do that role,” Gatland said in response to a question from RugbyPass.

“Probably for Liam, he’ll be really gutted and disappointed because I think… in terms of a younger captain who by all accounts was just hoping to make the squad, then to be named captain, it’s one of the things we’ve done is we think we’ve got three outstanding individuals within our squad in terms of growing them and building them in leadership.

“Trying to build a team around them… potentially I think that was something that Joe was looking to do with Liam Wright.”

All Black second row Brodie Retallick joins Jim Hamilton for the latest episode of Walk the Talk, touching on life in Japan, RWC 2023 and the future of All Black rugby. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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Comments

1 Comment
j
john 13 days ago

The next worst captain Schmidt could choose for the Wallabies, would be Slipper.
Schmidt is right on target.

Schmidt just doesn’t get it.

The Wallabies don’t need a captain that is like him, a kiwi.

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