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NSW Waratahs back embattled coach Penney

Mon, 01/03/2021, 6:45 am
Darren Walton - AAP
by Darren Walton - AAP
The Brumbies host the Waratahs in Round Two of Harvey Norman Super Rugby AU.

The NSW Waratahs are calling for patience following the Baby Tahs' faltering steps at the start of the Super Rugby AU season.

Coach Rob Penney even put his own head on the chopping bloke after last week's 61-10 loss to the Brumbies in Canberra.

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It was his youthful side's second-straight record defeat to start their 2021 campaign, after a 41-7 surrender to the Queensland Reds in round one, leaving Penney to claim he would be "happy to go gracefully" if no longer deemed the coach to take Waratahs forward.

But assistant coach Chris Whitaker and prop Tetera Faulkner both insist Penney retains "100 per cent" support from the playing ranks.

"It's tough for everyone. Everyone's right behind Rob, 100 per cent, so that's not an issue," Whitaker said on Monday.

The Tahs have lost more than 1800 Super caps in experience over the past two years, but Whitaker said fans needed to understand the mass exodus was largely a result of the global pandemic.

"It's out of everyone's control. If you look at what's happened, you look at the players that left, it was all around the COVID issue," he said.

"Unfortunately, everyone took a pay cut (last year). So unfortunately we couldn't keep the guys. It's not like we didn't want to keep them. We couldn't.

"We're given the squad and there's money restrictions so we're doing what we can.

"And with the amount of turnover we'd had, it takes time to build on those combinations. That's the situation we're in, we can't change it."

A former long-time captain of NSW, Whitaker likened the Waratahs' plight to that of Queensland four years ago when the Reds finished in the competition's bottom five for six successive seasons as coach Brad Thorn rebuilt a similarly inexperienced squad.

Last year, the Reds qualified for the Super Rugby AU grand final.

"They're three or four years into that program now and when you look at it, Brad Thorn was given time," Whitaker said.

"It all comes through patience and willingness to give these young guys time to develop and gel as a team."

Faulkner, one of the Waratahs' few old heads at 32, said the team was left "embarrassed" by their nine-try drubbing at the hands of the Brumbies.

But he was confident the Waratahs could bounce back against the Western Force in Sydney on Friday night, and that the group still had full faith in Penney.

"What Rob does behind the scenes is second to none," Faulkner said.

"He's helped me personally. I may be an older guy in the team but he's helped me with my scrummaging and what it takes to keep working hard with even as many games as I've had.

"Yeah, the players are 100 per cent right behind him."


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