New Wallabies boss Schmidt leans on 'champion bloke' Hooper for advice

rugby11 February 2024 07:55| © AFP
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Joe Schmidt © Getty Images

New Wallabies boss Joe Schmidt has sought advice from veteran flanker Michael Hooper and former coach Dave Rennie as he looks to bury Australia's "bad" World Cup experience under Eddie Jones.

New Zealander Schmidt officially starts on March 1. He faces the daunting task of building a coaching team from scratch and working out his best side before Wales visit in early July.

Jones controversially axed Hooper, 32, from the Wallabies' disastrous World Cup campaign last year, saying the experienced loose forward was "not the right role model".

But Schmidt appears to have a different view about Australia's most-capped skipper, who has since switched to Rugby Sevens as he targets playing at this year's Paris Olympics.

"I was talking to Michael Hooper briefly this morning, which was great, and he's a champion bloke," Schmidt told the Sydney Morning Herald in an interview published Sunday.

"Even when I was coaching against him for so many years, he was a champion bloke, even though he was a total pain in the neck because he is such a good player.

"I've got a lot of respect for him and just chatting to him about the mindset at the moment of players and I think there's a real keenness (for players) to get back into it.

"And I certainly understand that because if you've had a bad experience, the best way to bury it, at least a little bit, is to have a new experience and to have something else to build toward."

Former Ireland coach Schmidt succeeded Jones, who won just two from nine Tests and failed to steer Australia into the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.

He said the Australian, who is now coaching Japan, had messaged him and "I'm going to chat to Eddie".

"I've had a number of conversations with Dave Rennie, so that was great," Schmidt added of his fellow New Zealander who coached Australia before being axed for Jones.

Schmidt's first game will be against Warren Gatland-coached Wales in Sydney on July 6 as he begins building towards a tour by the British and Irish Lions next year and the 2027 Rugby World Cup on home soil.

"I just think there's an opportunity here to build something through to the Lions (tour) and then with a home World Cup for the Wallabies," he said.

"It'd be fantastic if they can be as competitive as they can be and certainly really bring the people of Australia with them, because I know they can be a fantastic support for the team, if we can get the team in the right shape."