Fit again back Dane Haylett-Petty is bracing for new head coach Dave Rennie to make changes to the Wallabies in the wake of their 27-7 defeat at Eden Park, which saw them go one-nil down in the best of four series.
The New Zealand coach surprised many by making four changes to the side that drew with the All Blacks in Bledisloe I.
It was, however, something that was inline with Rennie’s coaching philosophy of not being afraid to make the tough calls.
Yet, given the somewhat surprising result in the opening Test of the year, his ruthless streak very much put everyone on notice.
Rennie delivered a not so subtle warning of what is to come ahead of the third Bledisloe Test on October 31 in Sydney in his post-match press conference on Sunday, when he said that “selection” could fix their defensive issues.
Haylett-Petty, who hasn’t featured in either match yet after only returning to running a week ago, said he expected Rennie to be true to his word.
“Yeah, I think he’ll definitely make some changes,” the experienced fullback said.
“We’ve got a big group and a lot of guys are putting their hands up each session, pushing for selection. We’ve got a talented group, a lot of young guys coming through, which is exciting, and I think over the next nine days there will be a lot of guys pushing for those spots.”
Be there for the third Bledisloe Cup clash at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, Saturday 31 October. Tickets HERE
But rather than be concerned about the cut-throat nature of Rennie, Haylett-Petty said it could only be a good thing for the squad and pointed to Eddie Jones’ similar approach with England that has proven a winning formula since taking over in 2016.
“I think some of the other countries that have done really well, they’ve had depth, multiple players in each position,” the Melbourne Rebels captain astutely pointed out.
“I know that was a big focus of Eddie Jones and he took England to a World Cup final after having multiple players pushing for spots in each position and I’m sure that’s exactly what we’re looking for, guys fighting for those positions each and every week trying to take their spots.”
One position which almost certainly will have a new player in it is at No.12, after Matt To’omua once again hurt his groin and was forced off the field after 35 minutes.
While Rennie namedropped uncapped inside back Irae Simone as one candidate in the aftermath of the match, other options include Hunter Paisami, who shifted one position closer from outside centre after To’omua’s injury, shifting fly-half James O’Connor to the role, which would allow Noah Lolesio the chance to make his debut, or promoting Reece Hodge from the bench.
Either way, Haylett-Petty said To’omua’s loss would be felt.
“I haven’t (spoken to To’omua),” he said.
“I know he’s having a scan, but I haven’t chatted to him yet.
“However long he misses he’ll be a big loss. He’s one of the leaders of the team and I think he’s been close to the form player so far, shifting out doing a job at 12 and leading the defence.”
The Wallabies will regroup on Thursday after being given the past two days to freshen up after a month of living on top of each other.
EXPERIENCE OR YOUTH: To'omua's injury concern opens up another selection headache for Rennie's Wallabies
ROCKS AND DIAMONDS: Wallabies player ratings from Eden Park defeat