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Wallaby coach: 'I've never been so unprepared'

SPOTLIGHT: Wallabies fans should not expect overnight success after Joe Schmidt confessed to never being less prepared for a first Test in charge as a new coach.

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The Wallabies face Wales in their first match of the year in Sydney on July 6, hoping to reverse a record 6-40 loss to the Red Dragons at last year’s World Cup in France.

Schmidt, though, is making no bold promises, just repeating that he hopes his side will be competitive as he builds a side capable of challenging the touring British and Irish Lions in Australia next year.

After taking Ireland to the top of the rankings and then helping the All Blacks make last year’s World Cup Final, the meticulous Kiwi is enduring somewhat of a baptism of fire at the Wallabies.

After being appointed in January, he is living a gypsy lifestyle in hotels between travelling from his New Zealand base and doing the rounds with Australia’s Super Rugby franchises.

Schmidt candidly concedes he is still getting to know most of the players during a two-week camp in Brisbane before taking on Wales in Sydney.

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“I’ve never been so unprepared to be here,” he said on Thursday.

“This is the one time I’ve got to meet all these players and, in those previous roles, I’d had three years with Leinster and I knew a greater proportion of that squad before the All Blacks.

“I had the Blues and so, yeah, it’s a little bit daunting, to be honest.

“But if I wasn’t nervous, I don’t think I’d be on the edge doing my job right.

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“So I’m happy to be nervous because it just encourages me to work a bit harder and engage a bit quicker and a bit more often with the players so that we can try to be on the same page.”

Given the hectic lead-up, Schmidt is not only playing his selection cards close to his chest but also keeping fans guessing about how the Wallabies will play.

But he did indicate his new-look squad, which features only 14 survivors from Eddie Jones’s disastrous 2023 World Cup outfit, will present a more territorial game.

It seems the Wallabies will strike balance somewhere between Robbie Deans’ “play what’s in front of us” mantra, Michael Cheika’s attacking ball-in-hand style and Dave Rennie’s more pragmatic approach.

“There’s a few different ways you can play,” Schmidt said.

“We’ve got some different-size blokes who are able to play the way that they best play. We’d obviously like to be able to play with some tempo, and I don’t think that that will surprise anyone.

“It’s a way that the players like to play the game, and you want players to enjoy playing and that would obviously be part of it. Everything’s a hybrid [style], it tends to be.

“The last two years with the All Blacks, it was different again because you just want to try to get the best out of your individual players, and some sort of collective game model that they’re all invigorated by but also places these strengths as best they can.

“And I’m still learning what those strengths are, so I’m not going to say that we’ve arrived at a way to play that’s going to be successful because that’s going to take one more week, hopefully, and then we can put something together next Saturday.”

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