‘Step up and grab it’: Schmidt lays down message to players amid Super Round

Fri, Mar 1, 2024, 6:44 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson

It's a clean slate for Wallabies hopefuls as coach Joe Schmidt begins to craft squads in his head ahead of his first game in charge,

Schmidt is in Melbourne for Super Round where he'll get a great look at his players with three trans-Tasman matches and the Rebels-Force facing off.

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The Queensland Reds and ACT Brumbies impressed in the opening round but Schmidt understands the importance of consistent showings throughout Super Rugby Pacific.

“There’s some young players that I didn’t really know that well that have done quite well and there’s been some other guys who have probably been a bit patchy. What you learn after way too many years of professional Rugby is that you don’t pull trigger and make assessments quickly," he told reporters on the opening round of matches.

“You’ve got to monitor guys for a while and allow them to get their rhythm. I don’t think there’s too many players who can be really consistent from the get-go go but it’s always a little bit patchy kicking off the year.

“The more you’ve got through those first five/six games, we’ll have a clearer picture so I’ve taken notes and clips from games so far and I just store them and label them under each player.

“The further we get in the season, the more weight they carry because then I’m getting closer to seeing a player that is ready to go.”

Wins and strong performances against the Kiwi sides will go a long way towards impressing.

Sunday's double-header between the Chiefs-Brumbies and Hurricanes-Reds will be key litmus tests whilst the Waratahs can make a major statement with a victory over the Crusaders.

“Inevitably, if you’re going to play and do well against the best it’ll always be an advantage because it means that I can see someone matching up with other Test players," he explained.

“That can definitely happen with Wallabies derbies, and I’ll get to as many of those as I can, and then balance them with some really good games. You’ve got the Crusaders-Waratahs which was an unbelievable game a couple years ago when the Tahs tabled the Crusaders that nobody saw coming.

“I didn’t just give me confidence when slotting a few clips together from games like that but it gives players confidence that they can match up against players that have big Test experience.”

With a bevy of players used in 2023 by Eddie Jones, Scmidht has left the door wide open for any hopeful looking to secure their spot in the side.

“My impression is through a whole different lens in the past so it’s a fresh lens for me, which makes it a fresh opportunity for them and I just love them to step up and grab it," he expressed.

"I’m personally open-ended about captain and I would never make any decision without the discussions with the support staff and some of them will know the character of the player better and it’s the same with a wider playing group.

"It doesn’t mean I won’t speak to Dave or Eddie into how and what they did but I think a fresh start is the best way to get things underway.”

He was undeterred by the prospect of having just two weeks with players if their team made the Final, believing the excitement and energy of the new environment could negate it.

“A new group has that freshness and excitement about it as well so I’m hoping that will carry us into the first Test," he added.

“Maybe we won’t be as cohesive or accurate as we’d like to think we can get to but for our long-term plan, it’s to show progression and while we’re judged on outcome, we’ll be trying to develop the best process we can to maximise the playing ability of the group.

“I’m not sure what that group is so until you do, you don’t know how to match up who’s abilities you’re going to try and make use of but I saw some promising signs last weekend and I hope to see some tonight and over the next two days to, I’d be lying if I hadn’t already, but put together a bit of a team.

“Inevitably, I’ll be putting teams together in my head and after four or five weeks start writing down the depth charts that are loose enough but will give me an idea about what might work.”