Lineout guru confident Wallabies can fire against All Blacks

by Christy Doran

It's been their Achilles heel in recent years, but new forwards coach Geoff Parling is confident he can get the Wallabies' lineout firing from the outset against the All Blacks in the opening Bledisloe Test on October 11.

The British and Irish Lions winner, who played in all three Tests against the Wallabies in 2013, was the last piece of the coaching puzzle named by Dave Rennie earlier in the month.

A lineout guru, Parling has a massive task on his hands to turn the Wallabies' set-piece into the best in the world.

Not helping is that both of the Wallabies' starting locks at last year's World Cup - Rory Arnold and Izack Rodda - are overseas, but Parling, who has brought in his own system, is confident in the man power at his disposal.

"We've only been together for four days of actual training so far, so it's just about getting our basics and principles right," Parling told reporters on Monday.

"I'm implementing a new system that lads have got to get up to speed with and the expectation going into this week is there will be a bit of pressure there to start executing and get things right.

"I'd appreciate probably during the (Super Rugby AU) season probably some of the standards were low, but on the flip side you could probably say that some of the defensive work was excellent so it works both ways.

"As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing to fix because it's a fresh system and we've just started.

"But certainly the group so far, as far as I'm concerned, have been brilliant. They're very engaged and I'm very impressed with a lot of the guys there; a good mix with some experience and some youth, but the whole group seems very hungry and keen to get started."

Parling had his own Steven Bradbury moment to claim the Wallabies forwards assistant coaching job, with Brumbies duo Dan McKellar and Laurie Fisher turning down the role.

But Parling is a young coach who has an impressive CV, having played 29 Tests for England to go alongside his three for the Lions.

In the short space of time he's been with the Rebels, Parling is well thought of as a coach too.

The Rebels' lineout (88 per cent) was operating at a better retention rate than both the Brumbies and Waratahs (both 83 per cent).

Parling said that it was an "honour" to have been appointed to the role.

"I basically got a call from Dave, asking if I would be interested," Parling explained.

"I said, 'yes, I would be interested' and we went from there. It was a pretty simple conversation to be honest. We have conversations anyway about the players at the Rebels throughout the season, so we had been in regular contact with him and Wisey and Tatsy anyway.

"It's an honour, it's a great honour. At my first meeting here with the boys I said I was privileged to be stood in front of this group and I was looking forward to ripping in with them and seeing what they can do."


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Without Arnold, who was injured over the weekend in Tolouse's loss to Exeter in the European Champions Cup semi-final, Rodda and Adam Coleman, Rob Simmons and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto shape as the Wallabies' starting second-row paring to face the All Blacks in Wellington on October 11.

But Rebels duo Matt Philip and youngster Trevor Hosea are both firmly in the running too.

Parling said that he was confident Hosea, who started for the Junior Wallabies in 2019, could make the step up against the All Blacks if called upon.

"Well you never know do you until someone's actually in there, but everything I've seen with Trevor so far is yes," Parling said of the Rebels lock.

"He made his Super Rugby debut this season, we brought him off the bench against the Reds and he belted some people and whacked some people and did really well.

"I think with these guys, these guys love playing so as long as you can give them gradual intros, I think he had 20 minutes off the bench to start with, I certainly think he's ready."

Parling said he had enjoyed the fact that Rennie trusted his assistants to carry out their roles, but carried on the message from the head coach that there was not a moment to waste at training.

"Dave's been excellent," Parling said.

"He has input with the assistant coaches, but he lets them go. I'm quite specific around how I want things to be done and it's just getting with a certain group, maybe the lineout leaders, getting those guys to see why, getting them on board and then they can help drive it as well. 

"There's a couple of things I don't want to compromise on and as long as those things are done then I want lads to lead and I want lads to step up and drive each other, I don't want lads to be passengers, I want guys to make the most of every moment.

"With the Wallabies now, nobody should be taking any training session ever for granted, so I'd hope everybody rips in and drives each other."