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'Happy to be nervous': Wallabies coach admits he's a tad daunted in new job

By AAP
Head coach Joe Schmidt during a Wallabies training session at Ballymore Stadium on June 25, 2024 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Wallabies fans should not expect overnight success after Joe Schmidt confessed to never being less prepared for a first Test in charge as a new coach.

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The Wallabies face Wales in their first match of the year in Sydney on July 6, hoping to reverse a record 40-6 loss to the Red Dragon at last year’s Rugby World Cup in France.

Schmidt, though, is making no bold promises, just repeating he hopes his side is competitive as he builds a side capable of challenging the touring British and Irish Lions in Australia next year.

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After taking Ireland to the top of the rankings and then helping the All Blacks make last year’s World Cup final, the meticulous Kiwi is enduring somewhat of a baptism of fire at the Wallabies.

After being appointed in January, he is living a gypsy lifestyle in hotels between travelling from his New Zealand base and doing the rounds with Australia’s Super Rugby clubs.

Schmidt candidly concedes he is still getting to know most of the players during a two-week camp in Brisbane before taking on Wales at Allianz Stadium.

“I’ve never been so unprepared to be here,” he said on Thursday.

“This is the one time I’ve got to meet all these players and, in those previous roles, I’d had three years with Leinster and I knew a greater proportion of that squad before the All Blacks.

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“I had the Blues and so, yeah, it’s a little bit daunting, to be honest.

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“But if I wasn’t nervous, I don’t think I’d be on the edge doing my job right.

“So I’m happy to be nervous because it just encourages me to work a bit harder and engage a bit quicker and a bit more often with the players so that we can try to be on the same page.”

Given the hectic lead-up, Schmidt is not only playing his selection cards close to his chest but also keeping fans guessing about how the Wallabies will play.

But he did indicate his new-look squad, which features only 14 survivors from Eddie Jones’s disastrous 2023 World Cup outfit, will present a more territorial game.

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It seems the Wallabies will strike balance somewhere between Robbie Deans’ “play what’s in front of us” mantra, Michael Cheika’s attacking ball-in-hand style and Dave Rennie’s more pragmatic approach.

“There’s a few different ways you can play,” Schmidt said.

“We’ve got some different-size blokes who are able to play the way that they best play. We’d obviously like to be able to play with some tempo, and I don’t think that that will surprise anyone.

“It’s a way that the players like to play the game, and you want players to enjoy playing and that would obviously be part of it. Everything’s a hybrid (style), it tends to be.

“The last two years with the All Blacks, it was different again because you just want to try to get the best out of your individual players, and some sort of collective game model that they’re all invigorated by but also places these strengths as best they can.

“And I’m still learning what those strengths are, so I’m not going to say that we’ve arrived at a way to play that’s going to be successful because that’s going to take one more week, hopefully, and then we can put something together next Saturday.”

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Tom 1 hours ago
All Blacks snatch another tight victory from England at Eden Park

First up to any of the ABs fans who accused us of “bluster” pre-series for saying it would be a competitive - I'm glad it turned out to be an excellent series to which the ABs were deserving winners and I hope next time a side tours you'll be a little more humble. I loved the heart shown by the English boys and how they managed to contain the AB attack for large parts of the series. Was very disappointed by the lack of cohesion and ambition ball in hand, we looked after the ball poorly and hardly went 2 phases without kicking it away. We're not giving ourselves enough opportunity to put phases together and build pressure. The ambition shown in the 6N against Ireland and France seems to have gone and our players look very hesitant with ball in hand, we look much better when Marcus is taking the ball flat and boys are running hard at the line. So frustrating when we're starting to build pressure in the 22 we go back to the grubber kick then find ourselves back on the half way line 10 seconds later. We've shown great success with our box kicking game but we need to leave the flipping grubber kick in the locker room. Like the Marcus Smith hail Mary miss pass that went straight to Mark Telea, we seem to have no patience. Sometimes we just need to recycle the ball and go again. Loving seeing Maro back to his best and Fin Baxter really impressed, Alex Mitchell looks to be one of the most complete 9s in world rugby, great around the base and impeccable kicking. Congrats to the ABs, far more dangerous and skillful than England. We contained you for large swathes but to shut down that amount of pace and skill for 80 mins is nigh on impossible. Managed to find a way to win and instinctively grabbed the rare opportunities which came your way. Finding ways to win in two tight test matches will I'm sure be a great experience for your younger players. Beauden needs to be in the starting 15, what a worldie.

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