All Blacks legends disagree over Joe Schmidt’s ‘disappointing’ defection to the Wallabies

Colin Newboult
Joe Schmidt coaching the All Blacks at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Joe Schmidt coaching the All Blacks at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

All Blacks greats Sir John Kirwan and Jeff Wilson have locked horns over whether Joe Schmidt has betrayed his home country by taking charge of their arch-rivals.

The former Ireland boss has signed a deal to become the Wallabies head coach, which will take him to at least the conclusion of the 2025 British and Irish Lions series.

It has caused a certain amount of debate in New Zealand with Schmidt part of the All Blacks coaching staff that reached the 2023 Rugby World Cup final.

Views of current players

Players who were part of that squad have already spoken about their mixed feelings of seeing the 58-year-old cross the Tasman Sea.

Dane Coles described it as a “kick in the guts” while Scott Barrett says that he is “certainly slightly tender” after hearing the news.

Former wing Kirwan, who has also coached Italy and Japan, has added his name to the list of those “disappointed” by Schmidt’s choice.

“I was a little bit disappointed. I think he will do great and we want Australia to be strong, but I think if you come this way – you coach other nations and then come back and coach the All Blacks – I just think it’s too close,” he told The Breakdown.

“As an ex-All Black, I get uncomfortable with too much IP (intellectual property), but good luck to him. I hope he makes Australia to be strong. He’s a good coach.”

Wilson disagrees, however, and believes that it is simply the nature of professional sport, rather than an act of betrayal.

Taking the best job

“He’s a professional rugby coach so that’s his living, that’s his job, he can coach wherever he likes,” the former All Black said.

“It doesn’t bother me the fact he’s reconnected with David Nucifora, who he worked with in Ireland. They were at the start of something special up there.

“I have no issues with it whatsoever. If he wants to coach and wants to coach at the highest level, you take the best opportunity available.

“Am I surprised that it’s happened now? Yes, a little bit. There’s no doubt he’s taking some IP away, but you could say that he did that from Ireland and took it to New Zealand. It’s not different.

“He’s just a coach and he wants to coach. Australia is a tough proposition right now though, that’s not an easy place to go. They’ve got some work to do.”

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