'Behind enemy lines': Scott Barrett 'nervous' about Schmidt's Wallabies move

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Scott Barrett has joined a chorus of current and former All Blacks players speaking out about their apprehension of Joe Schmidt's appointment as the new Wallabies head coach.

Joining the All Blacks coaching team in 2023, Schmidt played a key role alongside coach Ian Foster in taking New Zealand to the Rugby World Cup final in France last year, when they were pipped by South Africa for a fourth Webb Ellis crown.

Announced as the new Wallabies coach in December after Eddie Jones' resignation, Schmidt's appointment sent ripples through New Zealand rugby with Barrett telling ESPN the 58-year-old's decision had left him "slightly nervous".

"He'll be a huge gain for Australian rugby and he's a great person and a great coach. I'm slightly nervous to see what he does with the Wallabies," Barrett told ESPN.

"I think if he's continuing what he did with the Irish and the All Blacks, their game will make good strides, so I guess it's good for trans-Tasman rivalry there. It'll be a good competition."

Speaking at the Super Rugby Pacific launch in Auckland, Barrett told ESPN he was left "a little bit gutted" after he heard the news of Schmidt's trans-Tasman switch.

"No, I haven't made contact," Barrett told ESPN when asked if he'd reached out to Schmidt. "I'm probably still a little bit gutted.

"When I heard it, I wasn't shocked, I guess I was like 'oh that's a really good acquisition for Australian rugby' because the time he was in the All Blacks he had a pretty good impact and he impressed me.

"It's a bit of a loss and him having been involved with the All Blacks it's almost like he's been behind enemy lines.

"I think it's the nature of world rugby at the moment, it's a global game and coaches from different nationalities, being involved with different teams, so yeah, good on him, and I wish him all the best, just not too well."

Barrett's comments align with those from All Blacks legend Sir John Kirwan and the lock's former Test teammate Dane Coles, who have both recently voiced their frustration with Schmidt's move, labelling it as "too close" to home.

"I was a little bit disappointed," said Sir John said on Sky Spot NZ's The Breakdown. "I think he'll be great, and we want Australia to be strong.

"But if you come this way, coach other nations and then you come back and coach the All Blacks. But after that, I think it's too close.

"But as an ex-All Black I get uncomfortable with that, too much IP [going to Australia], but good luck to him.

"He'll be a great coach, but as an ex-All Blacks, it makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable. Nothing personal."

Meanwhile, Coles said Schmidt's move was a "kick in the guts".

"Aussie-New Zealand, it's a great rivalry," he told media. "When you have a guy that is in the All Black environment heading over, it's kind of a kick in the guts. But once you get past that and understand, I'd rather see him coach as he still has a lot to give and is a great coach, so it's good to see him put his hand up.

"It doesn't mean I have to support him or be happy about it. It's Aussie versus the All Blacks, I'll have my All Blacks jersey on when they play. But it's good to see him still in the game and just hopefully they don't go too well."

Barrett likened Schmidt's trans-Tasman move to player movement between nations, something he said he doesn't agree with.

"It seems strange when you can bounce between nations and such," Barrett told ESPN. "Even with players, how they can change their allegiances, it doesn't really sit with me.

"It's a global game and I think that's more for club level rugby versus bouncing around nations. It's been happening for a while, guys like Steve Hansen coaching Wales and then eventually coaching the All Blacks. Just when it's closer to home, it's a little bit more tender.

"Once you make up your mind, if you're an All Black or a Wallaby, then that should be the team that you play for, and if you're not selected, then that's that.

"That's my personal opinion, you shouldn't be able to chop and change too much [which nation you play for]."

While the All Blacks trio have been unsettled by the former Ireland coach's appointment, they all also see it as an opportunity for the Wallabies to turn their fortunes around.

Australia failed to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the first-time last year when they won just two games of four in their Pool and finished the year with a horror 2-7 record. Putting the New Zealand-Australia rivalry aside, the three men believed it could see a resurgence for the struggling Wallabies.

"I think he'll be great, and we want Australia to be strong," Kirwan said. "I hope he makes Australia strong because I really want them to be strong."

While Coles added he'd be excited to see a resurging Wallabies side.

"Australia not doing too well at the World Cup, international rugby needs Aussie to be stronger, like they were," Coles said. "If he can do that, which I am sure he will get that team up to scratch, it will be awesome."