Rennie remaining tight lipped over matchday team but says Wallabies will be ready for Bledisloe I

International
by Christy Doran

Dave Rennie remains tight-lipped about the makeup of his matchday squad to take on the All Blacks but says the Wallabies won't be making any excuses in the build-up to Bledisloe I on October 11 in Wellington.

The Wallabies arrived in Christchurch on Friday night and are edging closer to being able to train again, with Rennie's side forced to stay in the confines of their hotel for three days before being able to take to the field.

While the Wallabies will each have to pass another COVID-19 test on Monday and again on day six and 12, Rennie isn't concerned that there will be an outbreak given the squad has remained in bubbles throughout the Super Rugby AU tournament and each passed their test when they arrived in camp last weekend in the Hunter Valley.

Even though the Wallabies are bunkered down in their hotel in the South Island, it's full steam ahead of Rennie's first match as an international coach.

It's an intriguing time for the New Zealander, with plenty of questions remaining around how the Wallabies will play under the two-time Super Rugby-winning coach and what his matchday squad will look like.

There's probably only a handful of players that are assured selection, with captain Michael Hooper, hooker Folau Fainga'a, forward Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and backs Jordan Petaia and Marika Koroibete bankers in the starting side.

Others such as forwards Scott Sio, James Slipper, Allan Alaalatoa and Taniela Tupou, as well as backs Nic White, Matt To'omua and James O'Connor will be in the squad too but whether they start or come off the bench remains the big question. 

What makes it even harder to gauge how his squad will take shape is that no reporter has been able to come within cooee of the squad.

On Sunday, Rennie wasn't given any hints away either.

"I’m not going to answer that question," Rennie responded, after being asked what positions were most open.

"There are a number of positions where it’s tight.

"Some may depend on combinations but I think how some people train may tip the scales.

"We want guys to understand they’ve got to earn the right to play, so that’s not just by how they perform on game day, it’s all the work they’re doing off the field, in the gym and in front of computers, to influence or earn the right to play."

 

Given that Rennie was appointed as Wallabies coach more than 10 months ago though, it's safe to say though that former Glasgow Warriors and Chiefs coach has a fair indication of what he thinks the squad will look like.

One thing is becoming more apparent by the day is that Rennie won't hesitate in rewarding the form of the next generation of stars. 

"We’ve been constantly talking about a first Test team against New Zealand, whenever that comes," Rennie added.

"We’ve got a bit of an idea but there’s still some positions up for grabs and we’ll let the players do the talking over the next few days.

"We’ve always said we’re going to pick on form and if you’re good enough you’re old enough. There is no doubt some of these young men are going to put serious heat on a spot within that 23. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got a good blend and support around them.

"We’ll be a bit clearer in the next few days."

Helping the Wallabies' chances is that 20-year-old sensation Petaia is expected to be fit, with Rennie confirming the outside back and each of the 44-man squad would be available for the Bledisloe opener.

"Jordan Petaia - he’s getting better," Rennie said.

"A little bit of a hip flexor issue, not as bad as first feared. He didn’t train with the team at all last week. Hoping we’ll get him back up and running by the end of the week."

After hitting the ground running during their first week together, the Wallabies had a relatively quieter day on Saturday but it was back to drawing room on Sunday.

The Wallabies will go to work on their computers on Sunday, going through the detail of where they need to improve while also having to improvise in their own hotel rooms.

READ MORE:

EXCLUSIVE: Why Michael Cheika is coaching against the Wallabies with Lededma's Pumas

TRC WILL GO AHEAD: SANZAAR boss hits back at New Zealand's 'disappointment'

CONFIRMED: Michael Hooper to captain Wallabies under Dave Rennie


Some players have bikes set up to turn the legs over, while others, particularly the backs, are doing body resistance training before they hit the ground running on Tuesday.

"Our focus at the moment is totally on us," Rennie said.

"From a coaching perspective we’ve done a bit of work on the All Blacks, but it’s about our game.

"We’ve got a few days of training, the players have got a job to go through and cut clips around things that are going well for them and things that they’ve got to work on and that’s a part of their plan.

"We’re still trying to embed our structures. New coaching staff and a lot of new players, so there’s been a bit of walk through and clarity stuff in NSW, so we’ll walk through those and then run through those on Tuesday. We’re trying to cram in as much as we can." 

It's fair to say though that the Wallabies' game will evolve throughout 2020 and that there's not going to be anything radical during the opening two Bledisloe Tests before November's Rugby Championship.

Rennie, as well as attack coach Scott Wisemantel, are using the less is more approach and not trying to cloud the players' minds with too much detail in such a small space of time.

But Rennie says his side will be as ready as they possibly can and won't be using their unique build up to Bledisloe I as any excuse for failing to show up in the New Zealand capital.
  
"We’ve got to (be ready)," he said.

"That’s been the point, we’ve had to prioritise what we needed to get. The danger is trying to do too much and then we lack intensity on game day.

"We’ve got a lot of clarity.

"There will be no excuses, we’ve got enough time to prepare.

"Under the previous (quarantine) system we wouldn’t have been able to train for 14 days, that wouldn’t have been ideal but we’re appreciative of the change of heart from the government. We’ve definitely got enough time to get sorted."