Rugby: Why Kiwi Joe Schmidt wanted Wallabies job despite historic low for game in Australia

Restoring Australia to being a powerhouse of the global game is the principal reason for Joe Schmidt signing on as Australia head coach for the next two years.  

Former All Blacks assistant coach Schmidt, 58, has put pen to paper to take charge of a Wallabies side at a historic low, after they failed to reach the quarter-finals of a World Cup for the first time.   

The Wallabies sit ninth on World Rugby rankings, the lowest Australia have ever been.  

Apart from struggling at test level, Australia have also failed to make a significant impact on Super Rugby - none of its five teams have lifted a title since 2014. 

Last year saw Rugby Australia place its faith completely in Eddie Jones, but was blindsided by his exit less than 10 months into a five-year deal. 

Joe Schmidt and Ian Foster.
Joe Schmidt and Ian Foster. Photo credit: Getty Images

Schmidt's hopes to change that, after the Kiwi oversaw Ireland's rise to becoming one of the game's most prominent nations.  

Now, he faces an even bigger task in restoring the Wallabies to their former heights, with a British & Irish Lions tour in 2025 standing as the apex of his new challenge.  

While many coaches in this position would steer clear of taking over Australia, Schmidt sees it as his responsibility to rebuild his new team to preserve order in a global game that continues to shift towards the northern hemisphere.   

"I'm desperate for the Wallabies to be competitive," he said. "If I can help, that's why I'm here.  

"The global rugby family is desperate for the Wallabies to be where they need to be.  

"The British & Irish Lions want to have a fantastic series. We want to build towards that and give them exactly what they want.  

"Two years after that, you've got a home World Cup. I'm desperate that the Wallabies are competitive in that World Cup [and] we get through to those really competitive playoff rounds."  

All up, Schmidt is the third Kiwi to take charge of Australia.  

Robbie Deans helmed the side in 75 tests between 2008-13, winning 44, while Dave Rennie coached Australia 33 times, winning 12, before he was sacked at the start of last year.   

There were calls for whoever replaced Jones at the helm to be an Australian, to re-instil national pride in the Wallabies.  

The likes of Dan McKellar and Stephen Larkham were put forward as contenders, but ultimately, Schmidt's experience and success at test level saw him preferred by Rugby Australia.

Rugby Australia chief executive Phil Waugh has no second thought about hiring a New Zealander to help restore pride in the Wallabies jersey.   

"International sport has moved on a lot in the last 10-20 years," said Waugh. "If you look across different sports, national teams go with the most capable people.  

"We know that not just in our player development, but also in our coaching development, we need to bring more good players through the system and we need to develop our coaches as well.  

"I think Joe, not only in his capability of what he'll deliver, but how well he'll work with the system to continue to develop coaches within the system, but offshore as well."  

Schmidt's appointment could be considered a surprise to many, after only leaving the All Blacks set-up after last year's World Cup in France.   

Working under Ian Foster, Schmidt was part of the coaching group that lost the Rugby World Cup final, but surprised many by even going past the quarter-finals.  

Now, he will be up against many of the same players he helped coach, under the guidance of Scott Robertson.  

After reports that Schmidt was to be named as new Wallabies coach, before it was confirmed, some All Blacks were already been in touch.  

"I could have done without the story breaking yesterday," he joked. "I've been flooded. 

Aaron Smith and Joe Schmidt.
Aaron Smith and Joe Schmidt. Photo credit: Getty Images

"There's a little bit of advice from a few of the boys, but I have no doubt, if the shoe was on the other foot, it would go the other way as well.  

"They're good men. They'll turn up competitive and we'll turn up competitive.  

"I'd just love for the Bledisloe to be competitive."  

The Wallabies haven't held the Bledisloe Cup since 2002, with the All Blacks retaining trans-Tasman rugby's biggest prize for 21 consecutive years.