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From left; Ian Foster, Joe Schmidt, and former All Blacks forwards coach Mike Cron at the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
The All Blacks have landed one of world’s rugby most highly regarded figures, with Joe Schmidt to poised to join the setup as a selector, Stuff understands.
Schmidt will replace the outgoing Grant Fox on the selection panel, and will give the All Blacks a major boost after a tough end to the year.
Schmidt, 56, led Ireland to the top of World Rugby’s rankings in 2018, twice coaching the Irish to victories against the All Blacks, and has a huge amount of knowledge about the game in both hemispheres.
Official confirmation of Schmidt’s appointment is likely to arrive in the coming days, Stuff understands.
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Fox has enjoyed a long and successful spell as All Blacks selector, and signalled he was going to finish up after the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
His exit opened the door for Schmidt, who has been employed by World Rugby as director of rugby and high performance.
Sources recently told Stuff that Schimdt’s influence was crucial in getting a change to World Rugby’s eligibility rules across the line.
It is unclear at this stage what Schmidt’s new role will mean for his position at the Blues.
The Auckland-based Super Rugby club announced last month that Schmidt would join as a “part-time role as a support coach”, assisting Leon MacDonald and his coaches.
Regardless, Schmidt’s arrival at the All Blacks level will give them a fresh pair of eyes and some new thinking in the buildup to the Rugby World Cup.
He will also act as a vital sounding board for Foster, given he has also experienced the pressure of being a head coach of a test side.
Schmidt is widely credited for turning around the fortunes of Irish rugby, and his attention to detail and high standards left a powerful legacy in Irish rugby.
Ironically, the All Blacks’ first opponents next year will be Ireland, whom they entertain in a three-test series next July.
The All Blacks are then likely to fly to South Africa for two tests against the world champions, so Schmidt will be keen to hit the ground running in his new role.
The former Blues assistant coach’s first job will be to pore over Super Rugby Pacific and put his ideas into the mix with fellow selectors Foster and John Plumtree; a high-powered trio who have all coached at high levels.
New Zealand Rugby is currently conducting a review of the All Blacks’ year, but the findings won’t be known until late January or early February.
However, Schmidt’s appointment signals that the All Blacks are ready to hit 2022 with some new thinking on how they shape their game.
After the Ireland job, Schmidt has prioritised family, but now the chance to join the All Blacks has been too good to turn down.
He already has links to the current All Blacks set-up, having coached alongside scrum guru Greg Feek during his spell in charge of Ireland.