"We’ve got genuine competition for places': Rennie opens up on selections as Leota earns first start

Thu, 23/09/2021, 06:31 am
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has backed Rob Leota to fire after the Rebel was named to start ahead of Saturday's match against Argentina in Townsville.

Leota will make his first international start in the backrow alongside fellow Melburnian Rob Valetini and captain Michael Hooper after a strong debut a fortnight ago.

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“He’s trained really well and been close to selection in the past so I think it’s good timing to bring him in,” Rennie told reporters on Thursday.

“Lachie’s (Swinton) gone well, especially from a line-out point of view…he brings an abrasive edge but we’ve been really impressed with Rob.

“He was outstanding in the Force hitout, he got a little cameo off the bench covering lock and carried well in that to.

“We just see his ability to give us some go forward as important and a fall for Rob Valetini whose done a lot of carrying as well.”

Whilst many speculated Sean McMahon to make his return after settling into Wallabies camp, Rennie hinted the Suntory back-rower still needs to sharpen up his knowledge surrounding their systems and set-pieces before he is unleashed.

“I think he’s fit enough, it’s just about around all the detail,” he said on McMahon.

“It’s just about our attack or defence structures. He’s worked really hard and is in good nick so he’ll continue to press for selection next week.

“We’re pretty keen to reward Rob who has been with us full time and that’s a big part of the decision.”

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The growing depth and competitiveness surrounding positions has become a welcome headache for Rennie, with McMahon joined on the sidelines by the likes of Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson.

Whilst Rennie had nothing but positives to say about the pair, he conceded it was 'start or miss out' for the Reds duo given the impressive form of the back-row and versatility nature of Pete Samu.

“I look at guys like Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson and you can’t fault those men, their training efforts have been fantastic,” Rennie noted.

“We’ve got Pete Samu on the bench because he provides genuine cover at six, seven and eight so these guys either start or miss out.

“In Fraser’s case, he’s got the skipper in front of him but his attitude to training has been fantastic, likewise with Harry. We’ve got genuine competition for places, we’re starting to create depth so we can only fit a certain amount of numbers in but Harry is very close, we think Rob deserves a crack.”

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