Dave Rennie, guitar-playing coach who strikes all the right notes
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Sydney (AFP) –
New Australia coach Dave Rennie has a reputation as an astute tactician with an eye for emerging talent -- and intensely driven by his rugby goals.
Players who have worked under the 55-year-old New Zealander have paid tribute to his talents as well as his personal skills, describing him as "a good bastard" off the field.
Rennie, named as Michael Cheika's successor on Wednesday, will need all his gifts as he attempts to take the two-time world champions back to the pinnacle of rugby and win over a public more used to having an Australian coach.
He is best known for steering the underperforming Waikato Chiefs to back-to-back Super Rugby titles in his first two years in charge at the club in 2012 and 2013.
But the former schoolteacher has been successful throughout his career, including a provincial title with Wellington Lions in 2000 and three successive junior world championships with New Zealand under-20s from 2008-2010.
In his most recent job, Rennie this year took Scottish side Glasgow Warriors to the Pro14 final and the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup.
Ross Filipo, part of the Chiefs' squad in 2013, said the Wallabies' preferred style of running rugby would suit the attack-minded Rennie.
"The teams he coaches have really amazing skill-sets and keep the ball alive," Filipo told Fox Sports earlier this month.
"Those types of skills are always on display in teams he coaches, a very positive type of rugby and that's probably a fit for Australian rugby."
But unlike the sometimes prickly Cheika, Filipo said Rennie was relaxed in the dressing room and would sometimes sing and play guitar after a win.
"He loves a laugh, he'll sit there and have a joke," he said. "He's very charismatic, he's just a good bastard, to be honest."
- 'Positive mindset' -
Rennie's ability to develop players is another attribute that would have appealed to a Wallabies hierarchy looking to rebuild the national squad after a disappointing quarter-final exit at the World Cup in Japan.
He mentored players such as Aaron Cruden and Julian Savea with the under-20s and brought in the likes of Brodie Retallick, Augustine Pulu and Bundee Aki at the Chiefs.
Cruden was full of praise for his former boss when Rennie joined the Warriors in 2017 for his first coaching role outside New Zealand.
"He really cares about his players, he gets to know them as people as well as rugby players," Cruden told the BBC at the time.
"When you've got a coach like that, you just feel really secure in the fact you know you're going out there for more than just yourself."
Cruden said Rennie had an ability to think outside the box, with a preference for free-flowing rugby.
"He's very diligent, works really hard behind the scenes, and he's got a really positive mindset in the way he likes rugby to be played," he said.
Rumours had linked Rennie to the Wallabies since earlier this year, when it became apparent that Cheika was on borrowed time.
But he refused to comment on speculation out of respect for the Warriors and New Zealand's semi-final exit at the World Cup complicated matters, with the prospect of becoming All Blacks head coach also in the mix.
Rennie revealed he had been asked to apply for the job, but while the approach from his homeland was "flattering" and "humbling" he opted for the Wallabies.
He will hope for greater success than the only other Kiwi to coach the Wallabies, Robbie Deans, who also brought an outstanding CV to the job but failed to translate New Zealand know-how into Australian wins during his 2008-2013 tenure.
© 2019 AFP