Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global

FEATURE How Queensland Reds can spark Schmidt's Wallaby revolution

How Queensland Reds can spark Schmidt's Wallaby revolution
1 month ago

If there are still some All Black supporters out there who are sticking their fingers in their ears, and singing ‘la-la-la’ about the central influence of Joe Schmidt to the last World Cup, they should shut up. At least, for long enough to listen to the wise words of veteran rake Dane Coles, who was a part of the playing squad.

“If he wasn’t there, I don’t reckon we would have gotten into a final without him,” Coles said.

“He was big on our attack, our breakdown. He is real passionate and intense when he talks, and in his delivery. It just makes you not want to let him down. He calls out people, [he] puts you on the spot.

“He’s a real intense character when he is coaching and it was probably something we needed when he came in.”

There you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. Schmidt is a priceless commodity in the global rugby economy: a top coach who has operated at the highest level in both hemispheres, like Sir Graham Henry and Sir Steve Hansen before him.

Les Kiss guided the Reds to victory in his first Super Rugby Pacific match as head coach (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Drawing knowledge from across the globe in a lively, seasoned rugby intellect is what made all the difference to the Kiwi World Cup campaign. The All Blacks might not have won ‘Bill’ for a fourth time in their history, but they darn well made sure they put themselves in a position to do it, even with 14 men for most of the final against South Africa. That is all that can be asked of a coach.

Without Schmidt, wise heads in the elite coaching community knew Ireland would beat New Zealand in the Test series in 2022. With Schmidt, they understood the men in green would find life much, much harder one year later.

With Schmidt by turns teaching, coaxing and roasting New Zealand players towards the performance peaks of which they are capable, accomplishment in the two areas Coles noted – attack and the breakdown – took some huge leaps forward in the space of 15 months.

Schmidt is now sitting across the Tasman as head coach of Australia, and Coles was as wary of his impact with the All Blacks’ traditional rivals as he was enthusiastic about his effect on New Zealand.

The players were shells of themselves last year, and now they are playing to their full potential.

“When you have a guy in the All Black environment heading over, it’s kind of a kick in the guts.

“But I would rather see him coach as he still has a lot to give and is a great coach, so it’s good to see him put his hand up.

“With Australia not doing too well at the World Cup, international rugby needs Aussie to be stronger, like they were.

“If he can do that – and I am sure he will get that team up to scratch – it will be awesome.”

The knowledge and leadership Schmidt brings will find a ready echo in Super Rugby Pacific, in the shape of Queensland’s Les Kiss. Like Schmidt, Kiss has ‘been there and done that’, he has coached in South Africa, in Ireland and in England and been successful, and he is a treasure trove of cutting-edge knowledge about how elite rugby is played. What Schmidt does with his Wallabies, Kiss will reinforce at the Reds, and Australian rugby as a whole will begin to move forward once again.

After the opening round 40-22 win at Suncorp over interstate rivals New South Wales, Queensland scrum-half Tate McDermott spoke effusively about his new boss.

“[Playing for Les Kiss] is just so enjoyable.

“What Les has done is given these guys confidence. We have come off the back of some pretty poor years. They were shells of themselves last year, and [now] they are playing to their full potential.

“We’re not quite where we need to be at the moment, but that’s a bloody good start – and we’ll take that any day of the week against a good outfit.”

The area of the team that will improve most immediately in any Schmidt or Kiss-coached side is the middle five – the back-row and half-backs. The new man at Ballymore will demand a lot of quick-build rucks [93 against the Waratahs] with a high ratio of 1-3 second lightning-quick ball [68% versus NSW]. McDermott will have to clean up his act at the base and whoever the 10 turns out to be [Tom Lynagh in the first round] will have to play flat, on top of the defence. The back-rowers will be asked to run and pass and show good feet before contact.

At Suncorp, the pair of Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson ran for the most metres of any forwards on either side [74m combined] with two tackle busts, five offloads, one try assist and one try between them. They made 20 of 21 attempted tackles and two breakdown pilfers. Heavens, Wilson was even trusted to win a ball at the back of a lineout!

Their good work began at the coal face. If Queensland wanted to kick for touch in the red zone rather than three points, their 5m lineout drive had to function, which in turn meant NSW’s outstanding maul defender Jed Holloway had to be kept away from the ball.


Wilson and McReight are in the second tier of the drive after the take by Seru Uru, and their job is to become the engine of the maul, moving it towards the goal line while sealing Holloway away from the ball. In the event, the pair – with a liberal dose of help from Ryan Smith – are successful, and Holloway gets his big mitts on the ball-carrier [Matt Faessler] only half a metre from the line, when it is all too late. The story was much the same for Queensland’s second maul try in the 52nd minute.

The use of Wilson’s ball-carrying ability is also likely to be more effective under the new regime.


Reds fans, get used to this picture in 2024. Josh Flook is the second playmaker from lineout, with Hunter Paisami out the back and Wilson in front. The idea is to inject Wilson in between two defending backs rather than run him straight into forwards; recognising the essential fact that despite his size, he has always been a natural hole-runner, rather than a pure power forward like Bobby Valetini.

One thing Kiss will emphatically not be doing is imprisoning Wilson solely in the role of battering ram.


There were already plenty of signs the Reds’ back-row were meshing very well indeed on attack, as their roles clarify under Kiss.




In the first clip, the third back-rower [Liam Wright] has been added to one of the tight forward carrying pods inside, and that frees up Wilson and McReight to make play off the second or third receiver in the channels further out.

In the second sequence, McReight and Wilson are initially supporting Wright in shouldering the carrying load straight up the middle, before shifting into the wide right 15-5m zone after the hard work has been done.

When Wilson produced a bit of magic off the back of the scrum to launch McDermott over for the Reds’ fifth try, it was nothing more than just desserts for Queensland’s middle five, the cherry on top of a cake well baked.


The presence of Kiss and new set of coaches is likely to relaunch the Wallaby career of Wilson, cement McReight in as the starting seven and Tate McDermott as the run-on nine. It will also give the international aspirations of Uru, Wright, Harry McLaughlin-Phillips and Tom Lynagh a very healthy shove in the back. And it will help the Wallabies win.

With Kiss supporting Schmidt in the Aussie pyramid, it may not be too long before we witness the strong Australia the rugby world needs.


Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free