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Dave Rennie preparing for cards in rugby series

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie wants Australia’s Super Rugby clubs to continue competing against Kiwi sides for the sake of the national team’s standards, and admits he wasn’t consulted before Rugby Australia’s brazen threat to walk out on the New Zealand franchises.

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan said last week that Australia might look to go it alone from 2024. It is considered a hollow threat by many, aimed at trying to increase Australia’s share of TV revenues for their involvement.

“I think I’ve made it it pretty clear in the past,” Rennie said Monday. “I think it’s good for both countries that we play trans-Tasman footy. I think the competition has been excellent this year. And our sides have certainly been more competitive. It’s good for them. It’s good for us. I’d like to see that continue.”

Asked if McLennan’s comments had come out of the blue for him as well as rugby fans, he said: “Yes. I understand Hamish is an innovative thinker. And I guess, from a commercial point of view, wants a bigger slice of the pie. So I understand this thinking.”

He wouldn’t buy into discussing a scenario where there was no trans-Tasman competition.

“I’m not going to crystal ball gaze this situation,” said Rennie. “What I think, and what a lot of New Zealand clubs will think too, is that playing trans-Tasman games is good for us. We’ve just got to make sure that financially it’s beneficial as well.

“So yes, I’m supportive of the competition continuing, but it’s not my call.

“They’ve got some of the  best players in the world, as we’ve seen. You want to be playing the best players, it’s how we’ll get better and be challenged, so I agree it’s important.”

Rennie, meanwhile said the Wallabies camp on the Sunshine Coast was progressing well, less than two weeks out from the first Test against England, with a few bumps and bruises but minimal detail over the main injury concern Taniela Tupou.

“It’s been awesome. Great facilities. Now it’s a one stop shop, which is, which is what we need,” said Rennie.

Dave Rennie

Dave Rennie (Photo by Getty Images)

“We’ve got a gym, which is massive, on the edge of the field. The field is three or four minute walk from the accommodation, and we’ve been really well looked after. We’ve had the boys up at six in the morning. We’re getting multiple sessions in a day and that’s the advantage of not having to travel.

“We’ve sowed some good seeds. We’ve done a fair bit of work around culture and just nice to have the boys back together.”

He predicted the spate of red and yellow cards to continue during the series and said the group was working on improving their discipline.

“We’re certainly putting a lot of time into it,” Rennie said.

“The quality of decision making, the quality of technique and the way it’s being refereed at the moment there are going to be cards every game. We have to make sure we minimize those situations.”

Rennie said the team was better conditioned than a year ago, and had greater depth, and would benefit from having a strong core of Brumbies players who have been working with Wallabies assistant Dan McKellar.

“We’ve got good continuity, obviously with Dan. And Dan was with us last year. So there’s some things that we do that a little bit different to the Brumbies.

“The biggest challenge really is the language. There are things that we do that our club teams use a different word for. And so we’ve put a lot of time into that.

“But from a synergy point of view, we’ve got a clear plan around what we think is going to be important against England, and all the clubs will fit into that.

“We’ve certainly got more depth and we’ve already had discussions around what the 23 might look like. Certainly a bit of depth in some key spots. So how guys train and perform over the next X amount of days it will be important.

“We’re certainly better conditioned as evidenced how we trained this morning. It was tough. I definitely think there’s been a shift in skill set as we’ve witnessed at Super level, and we want to grow our game awareness. They are all key elements. I think we’ll have a very good set piece and that’s paramount at Test level.”

Last week James O’Connor said he would happily step up as a No.15 should Rennie want him. Rennie all but ruled that out on Monday and said no discussions had taken place with JOC about that position.

“We’ve got a few fullback options within the squad,” he said. “Tom Banks plays it regularly. Jordan Petaia’s played a little bit, Andrew Kellaway’s played Test footy at 15 as well. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but he hasn’t played any 15 this year.”

He was likewise dismissive of England’s hefty loss to the Barbarians on Sunday, saying he didn’t watch it and expected the team for the first Test to bear little resemblance to that match.

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