Rennie excited about return of overseas trio

Fri, 08/10/2021, 06:23 am
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
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They are considered the ones that got away but the prospect of Rory Arnold, Will Skelton and Tolu Latu playing for the Wallabies has excited Dave Rennie.

The trio were selected as part of the Wallabies 37-man squad to tour Japan, Europe and the UK.

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They will likely come into the squad a week before the Scotland Test, leaving Rennie and the coaching staff limited time to evaluate their talent.

However, Rennie was confident they could still make an impact as they get up to speed with their systems.

“The first Test is tough because of Reg 9, even though we would've been in the UK for two weeks prior to the Scottish game, they won’t join us until the night after they play,” he revealed to reporters on Friday.

“We’ve given them a bit of work and they have done some homework. The key thing is they need to be really well conditioned and I know they are doing extra work there.

“They obviously have a commitment to their club and we’ll make a decision around how they shape up when they come in but we certainly won’t be using all three guys against Scotland."

Skelton and Arnold have been dominant since leaving Australian Rugby, in contention for two of the best locks in Europe.

Rennie labelled Arnold's departure as one of the 'biggest losses' the Wallabies have faced after departing following the 2019 Rugby World Cup, since going on to win a title with Toulouse.

“As we know, I was really disappointed that Rory Arnold has committed to leave Australia post World Cup and obviously he’s gained more experience over there but he still has a strong desire to play for the Wallabies," he said.

“I’ve been in constant contact with him when I was in Scotland.

“…I think he was one of the biggest losses (after the WC) and looking from afar, it was really disappointing. It was too far down the track (to change his mind), he had already committed to Toulouse so there was no way he would back out of that.

“He’s been outstanding for Toulouse, they won the French competition last year and he’s had a big hand in that."

Meanwhile, Rennie got a first-hand account of the trimmed-down Skelton during his time at Glasgow when the lock was at Saracens.

He has picked up where he left off at La Rochelle, nominated for Top 14 Player of the Year last season.

“I coached against Will (Skelton) when I was at Glasgow and he was at Saracens and since then has headed off to La Rochelle and is still keen to play for the Wallabies again,” he said.

“He really leaned down, Saracens did a great job with him. They probably used him more in the last couple of years as a guy off the bench to come on with 30 to go and he was devastating.

“La Rochelle were runner’s up in both competitions and Will was regarded as the best player in Europe so that tells you the impact he’s having over there."

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Whilst Latu has shown signs of the form that saw him selected to start at the '19 World Cup, there still remain question marks over his behaviour after his arrest in March.

This came just two years after he was found drunk at the wheel in 2019 outside Rugby Australia HQ.

Having welcomed supposed 'bad boys' Quade Cooper and James O'Connor back with resounding success, Rennie was saving his judgement on the 28-year-old.

“With all these guys, we spend a lot of time having a conversation, Tolu’s a little different, he’s over WhatsApp and Zoom,” he explained. "Other guys like Quade we’ve been able to have a coffee with and have a decent chat around expectations and where things are. Invariable we’ve got some guys who made some poor decisions and have made (behaviour) shifts around that.

“I’m going to judge guys on how they behave within our environment as opposed to what other people are telling me about them.

“With James and Quade coming back in, they’ve been outstanding and made major contributions to the group and we expect the same from Tolu."

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