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Joe Schmidt’s mission to cure Wallabies of Eddie-inflicted PTSD


Joe Schmidt insists restoring “deep rooted belief” to a Wallabies team battered by last year’s chaos will take time, despite a flying start to his reign as Australia’s coach.

Schmidt inherited a team that was coming off a worst-ever World Cup campaign in France. He has started the recovery process by injecting fresh blood – and will introduce an eighth debutant in his first two Tests in Melbourne on Saturday.

Along with rookie hooker Josh Nasser, six of the team to face Wales this weekend are in their second Test, having debuted last week.

Wallabies head coach Joe Schmidt looks on during a Wallabies training session at David Phillips Sports Complex on July 04, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

After naming his 23, Schmidt was asked what he’d learned so far about the players he has chosen to lead the Wallabies forward after the lows of Eddie Jones’ tenure.

“I know they’re good men and certainly driven to play really well for the Wallabies,” said Schmidt.

“They’re still finding their feet. There’s some confidence, but to get that really deep rooted belief in what they’re doing, and how they play the game and how they depend on each other – that’s going to take time because those things are embedded in instant decisions where you’re playing with someone.”

Schmidt believes in the importance of team unity and that will, understandably, be a process, especially considering the new blood coursing through the team.

“The aspect of the game that I love is the interdependence,” Schmidt said on Thursday.

“No one can really play the game by themselves. Even Tom Wright on the weekend, I thought Andrew Kellaway and Josh Flook gave him options on the edge, which meant one of the defenders turned out, which gave him the corner to take.

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“Even when you get a really individual try, you’ve still got other players working either side of you to try to help you out.

“I’ve learned that they’re determined, they want to be as good as they can be.

“But I’ve also had enough experiences to know that it’s still going to take time before they really know each other well enough to have that trust in those microseconds that you get to make decisions.

“I think any team is always a work in progress but sometimes you’re just a little bit further back in that spectrum than getting into the really accelerated high trust environment of a high performance team.”

One thing the win over Wales has done is put a few smiles on faces that weren’t used to having them in Wallaby camp – where losses sting and are amplified by runs of poor form.

Tom Wright of the Wallabies celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the men’s International Test match between Australia Wallabies and Wales at Allianz Stadium on July 06, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

“In one sense, it’s good to get the monkey off your back and get back in the winning circle,” said Wallaby hooker Matt Faessler on Thursday.

“Externally it’s awesome to get some faith in our supporter base again, get some bums on seats at stadiums and get everyone on the direction that we’re trying to head, which is trying to be a successful Test team and represent the nation well.

“It’s a lot easier to have fun during a week when you’re coming off the back of a win opposed to a loss, but that still doesn’t mean that we don’t review, preview hard and keep challenging each other at training and continuing to grow. But it’s definitely a small step in the right direction.”

After last week’s game Schmidt told the Stan crew: “I love the result. Lots to do around the performance.” And he was asked how much work was needed to keep people’s feet on the ground in the wake of a rare win.

“I’ve been fairly pragmatic about that,” Schmidt said.

“In the end, three tries to one looks good on paper and I love the three tries we got and they were all quite varied.

“One was a real roll the sleeves up effort. Another one was, you know, Filipo is on the left edge and he works hard to get that ball back out on the right edge and finish as well.

“And then Tom Wright’s finish was outstanding. So we’re really happy with that.

“But we felt that there were times, particularly back end of the game, we made 68 tackles in the last 10-12 minutes.

“We don’t want to be tackling that long against the Welsh side that are coming in waves and we’ve got to get a little bit more pressure on the ball. 

“One thing I thought was outstanding during that period of time is our discipline. We defended really well. That’s a reality for the players that if we don’t look after the ball ourselves or we give it away too cheaply, then we’re going to get red waves coming at us and it’s going to be a hard night’s work if that’s the case.”

Wales are not at their strongest and the Wallabies will face much sterner Tests over the coming months. Warren Gatland’s team is the perfect opponent for Schmidt at this nascent stage of his tenure – decent enough to provide challenges but easy enough to beat.

Not that the Wallabies players need reminding of their recent record.

The last time they strung three wins together (and two before last week) was in 2021 when they were in a stretch of five victories in a row – two against South Africa, two against Argentina and two against Japan. That Japan win was 27 matches ago.

“Last week the result was obviously positive. I think it’s a small step in the right direction, but for us there’s still a massive area of growth,” said Faessler.

“It definitely wasn’t a polished performance by any means, so we’re not getting too ahead of ourselves. It’s an awesome beginning to the Test season, but for us there’s still a lot of things we’d like to work on and hopefully bring that into the game this weekend.”

As for Schmidt’s messaging this week?

“He’s quite an experienced head coach, and the language may have changed, I may just not notice it,” said Faessler. “A few subtle changes, I think, and a couple of things you really want to focus on this week, and hopefully that’s evident on the field this weekend.”

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