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Joe Schmidt reportedly in the running for Wallabies top job

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Tuesday Dec 12, 2023

Rugby Australia (RA) is on the brink of unveiling its new director of high-performance, and all signs point to Peter Horne, the current director of high-performance at World Rugby. This strategic move could also pave the way for securing the highly-respected coach Joe Schmidt for the vacant Wallabies head coach position.

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Recent reports from The Roar have identified Horne as the frontrunner for the high-performance role, surpassing contenders like Billy Millard, the former director of rugby for Sydney University, Australian Sevens, and Harlequins. While the finer details of the negotiations are yet to be disclosed, an official announcement regarding Horne’s appointment is expected in the coming week.

Horne, presently engrossed in World Rugby meetings with tier-two nations in Sydney, has been instrumental in shaping competitions, high-performance structures, and pathways in developing countries during his tenure with World Rugby since 2015. His commitment also extended to integrating Fiji Drua and Moana Pasifika into Super Rugby, contributing to the recent successes of Chili, Fiji, Georgia, and Portugal in the Rugby World Cup.

In a departure from the potential appointment of a former coach like Millard, RA appears to be leaning towards an administrative figure in Horne. This aligns with RA’s desire to emphasize administrative prowess, particularly in Horne’s extensive experience in developing rugby globally.

The significance of Horne’s role goes beyond administrative responsibilities, as he will sit at the helm of Australia’s men’s and women’s high-performance programs. A key objective for Horne will be to centralize Super Rugby’s high-performance programs, reflecting RA’s pursuit of a unified approach.

One of the compelling aspects of Horne’s potential appointment is his close association with Joe Schmidt, the former Ireland coach and All Blacks assistant. Schmidt, a highly-regarded figure in the rugby coaching world, could become a vital asset for the Wallabies. Their working relationship at World Rugby, where Schmidt joined after departing from his Irish coaching post in 2019, is believed to be robust.

Schmidt’s coaching credentials include leading Ireland to the top of World Rugby’s rankings, marking a transformative period for Irish rugby on and off the field. Despite an initial hiatus post-2019 World Cup, Schmidt’s impactful return to coaching with the Blues in Super Rugby and subsequently with the All Blacks has further enhanced his standing.

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The prospect of Schmidt taking the reins of the Wallabies has generated significant interest. His meticulous coaching style, evident in Ireland’s strategic play and adaptability around the ruck, could address the Wallabies’ recent on-field challenges.

Should Rugby Australia proceed with Schmidt, the move would likely garner support from Super Rugby franchises, viewing him as the ideal candidate to elevate the Wallabies’ performance. Additionally, Schmidt’s longstanding relationship with Ireland’s director of high-performance, David Nucifora, could add another layer of intrigue, potentially influencing Schmidt’s decision to join the Australian fold.

With the aim of finalizing the appointment before Christmas, RA anticipates that the new high-performance director will play a pivotal role in reshaping the game’s landscape in Australia. The potential collaboration between Peter Horne and Joe Schmidt could usher in a new era for Australian rugby, bringing with it the promise of enhanced performance and strategic acumen on the international stage.

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