New coach Rennie demands fitter, faster Wallabies
Newly appointed Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said Monday that Australia players need to be fitter and quicker to challenge top teams, and the New Zealander wants to see results quickly.
The 56-year-old recently ended a four-year spell at Glasgow Warriors to replace Michael Cheika, who left after Australia's World Cup quarter-final exit last year.
Ordinarily, he would have debuted as an international coach next week against Ireland in Brisbane, but those plans were wrecked by the coronavirus pandemic.
He has been holed up for the past fortnight in quarantine in Auckland with no firm date for his arrival in Australia and uncertainty about the international calendar.
Doubts remain over whether the Rugby Championship can held with the likelihood that Australia will instead face the All Blacks in up to four Tests.
That suits Rennie, who considers New Zealand the benchmark.
"What we know is that we should get to play the All Blacks a number of times this year if nothing else, and that is a great introduction for us," he said in a video call from his New Zealand hotel room.
"For me that is pretty exciting, normally the best side in the world, so it's a really good gauge for us of where we need to be.
"The more times we play the All Blacks the better. We haven't had a lot of success against them the last 15 or so years and we have to put ourselves under pressure against the best."
To do that he said his players needed to improve their fitness and ability to get back on their feet more quickly, tasks he has been talking to their Super Rugby sides about.
"That's a massive part of it. We reckon if we can work hard for each other and get a wall in front of teams, we can defend for long periods and hopefully create opportunities to score off those, and likewise in attack," he said.
"So conditioning has been a real focus for us and then skill-set under pressure."
Rennie takes the reins with a host of experienced players calling it quits after the World Cup and Australia languishing at seventh in the world.
But he sees it as a chance to rebuild the side towards the next World Cup in France.
"Ultimately we want results quickly," he said. "That's our mindset, we're not looking for excuses, we need to front (up) from the start."
Rennie starts with several problems to solve.
Second-row forwards Rory Arnold, Harry Hockings and Izack Rodda are out of contention after moving overseas because they have not played 60 Tests, and he must also choose a captain, with incumbent Michael Hooper not guaranteed the job.
"I've spoken to Hoops a lot on various things, but all we've talked about at the moment is earning the right to play," Rennie said.
"He's a strong contender for captain, but we haven't firmed up any decision around that. There's a lot of good leaders amongst the group."
Decision-making around who makes the team was a point of contention for Cheika, whose power was effectively diluted when a three-man selection panel was introduced last year.
One of those selectors, Michael O'Connor, has left, with director of rugby Scott Johnson remaining in the role.
"I have no issues with Johno being part of that process ... to be honest how I have done it in the past has been real group decisions," said Rennie.
© 2020 AFP