His team might have potency across the field, but Dave Rennie says the only way the Wallabies will beat the All Blacks and snap their Bledisloe hoodoo is if they can keep their trans-Tasman rivals to less than 16 points on Sunday in Wellington.
On Friday morning Rennie announced his team, which includes four debutants and just two survivors – captain Michael Hooper and winger Marika Koroibete - from the side that was dumped out of last year’s World Cup quarter-final by England.
All week the Wallabies denied knowing the team, but Rennie revealed that he picked his starting XV last Sunday to give them clarity ahead of the first Test of the season.
“We actually named our starting XV last Sunday and then we had a full hit-out, so we had four 18 minute quarters and then we named our bench the following day,” Rennie told reporters on Friday.
“So it was a little bit different but we wanted our starting group to get a decent hit-out and work on combinations under a bit more pressure. So that went really well and then we named our bench the following day.”
The glaring omission in the side is world class back Jordan Petaia, who lost his race to get back up to speed following his hip flexor injury suffered in the Super Rugby AU final against the Brumbies.
But Rennie confirmed that Petaia, as well as experienced Test fullback Dane Haylett-Petty, would both be eligible for selection for the second Test at Eden Park a week later.
Nonetheless, Rennie has decided to throw caution to the wind by selecting dynamic Reds uncapped duo (winger) Filipo Daugunu and (outside centre) Hunter Paisami in the backline to complement the experience of halves Nic White and James O’Connor and second playmaker Matt To’omua at inside centre.
Up front, too, Rennie has opted for power and ball-running capacity with Taniela Tupou, Pete Samu and debutant Harry Wilson selected.
“Yep, that’s our mindset (to attack),” Rennie said.
“We’re all well aware of the power in the game the All Blacks will play. We’re trying to grow this side, not just for this weekend but for the future.
“Harry has been a real standout. A big ball-carrier, aggressive defensively and we were keen to have him and Pete Samu on the park because they provide a point of difference.
“Hunter, with Jordy being unavailable, is an aggressive ball-carrier and really destructive defensively. We think that’s going to be important.
“Filipo, I thought he was just outstanding for the Reds. A real handful. He can beat people in a phone box and really aggressive defensively, great post-tackle so really good skillset. They were pretty straightforward decisions to be honest.”
But for all the attacking potency in the world, Rennie said it wouldn’t count for anything unless they could keep the All Blacks on the back foot and deny them points.
“We’ve put a lot of emphasis around defence though and we know that’s going to be really important,” the two-time Super Rugby winner with the Chiefs said.
“The teams that have beaten the All Blacks in the past have limited [teams] to less than 15 or 16 points. That’s our challenge.
“The sides that have beaten them have defended really well so you can't get away from that.
“We've put a lot of time into our defence but it's got to be constant.
“The ability of the ABs is to score in a heartbeat, or score twice in five minutes , we are well aware of the threats there.
“We need to be able to apply pressure through our defence. The sides who have had success against them have defended really well so we're aware that's an important part for us.”
The Wallabies haven’t beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2001, while they haven’t held the Bledisloe Cup since 2002.
Asked where, if at all, there were any weaknesses in the All Blacks’ team, Rennie raised his eyebrows at the decision to shift Jordie Barrett – the star fullback in Super Rugby Aotearoa – to the right-wing to accommodate both No.15 Beauden Barrett and fly-half Richie Mo’unga in the same side.
“It’s a hell of a side isn’t it?” Rennie said.
"And pretty predictable.
“The only guy that I didn’t have in there was Jordy Barrett on the wing. I thought Anton Lienert-Brown would be at 12, maybe move Goodhue out and have Rieko on the wing. But Jordy has been in such great form and they needed to find a spot for him.
“There’s not a lot of weaknesses there are there.
“As I mentioned, we’re going to have to defend really well and for long passages. We need to be really aggressive to try and force them to kick or to try and turn over some pill.
“Then it’s about the quality of our decision-making and the quality of our skillset under pressure is going to be important. We certainly want to play but we’ve got a plan. To beat a side like this we’re going to have to play really well.”
After back to back fixtures in New Zealand, Rennie’s Wallabies will host the All Blacks in consecutive fixtures in Australia to start The Rugby Championship after SANZAAR tweaked the schedule on Thursday.
It’s a hellish start to Rennie’s international coaching career, but the Wellington-boy didn’t flinch when asked of the challenge ahead of him.
“I wanted five (Bledisloe Tests to start), so disappointed,” he quipped.
ALL BLACKS V WALLABIES, SKY STADIUM IN WELLINGTON. KICK-OFF: 2PM AEDT, SUNDAY 11 OCTOBER
WALLABIES (1-15): James Slipper, Folau Fainga'a, Taniela Tupou, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Matt Philip, Harry Wilson, Michael Hooper, Pete Samu, Nic White, James O'Connor, Marika Koroibete, Matt To'omua, Hunter Paisami, Filipo Daugunu, Tom Banks
RESERVES: Jordan Uelese, Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Rob Valetini, Jake Gordon, Noah Lolesio, Reece Hodge
ALL BLACKS (1-15): Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Ofa Tuungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Whitelock, Shannon Frizell, Sam Cane (c), Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Richie Mo'unga, George Bridge, Jack Goodhue,Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett, Beauden Barrett
RESERVES: Dane Coles, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Nepo Laulala,Tupou Vaa'i, Hoskins Sotutu, TJ Perenara, Anton Lienert-Brown, Caleb Clarke