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‘Clean slate’: Rennie says Wallabies captaincy is up for grabs

Where that leaves Hooper, who this week relinquished the NSW captaincy to focus on his form and usher through the next generation of leaders at the Waratahs, is uncertain.

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The pair talked privately when Rennie visited the Waratahs on Wednesday, and both made it clear Hooper was focused on earning a Wallabies jersey first and foremost.

The 99-Test No.7 signed a mammoth five-year contract extension worth a reported $6 million in 2018, a deal framed at the time as the core of a small group RA considered crucial to 2023 World Cup success.

Rennie made it clear other people’s decisions would not weigh on his mind around the selection table.

“It’s a clean slate,” he said.

“What I know about him (Hooper), he’s a good man, he’s got a massive work ethic, he’ll be desperate to make the Wallabies side, and so his job is to show us that in Super Rugby.”

Just one of the boys again: Hooper at Waratahs training on Wednesday.

Just one of the boys again: Hooper at Waratahs training on Wednesday. Credit:AAP

Rennie is midway through a 10-day tour of his new landscape before flying back to Scotland, where he will see out his deal with Pro14 club Glasgow Warriors.

His commitment to those players and staff means he will only start full-time with the Wallabies in late June, leaving little time to prepare before Ireland arrive for a two-Test tour in July.

He will be burning the candle at both ends in the meantime and leaning heavily on his assistants, Scott Wisemantel, Matt Taylor, a yet-to-be-appointed forwards coach and Australian selectors Scott Johnson and Mick O’Connor to be his eyes and ears on the ground.

Australia languish at sixth in the world rankings after a poor World Cup campaign and have not held the Bledisloe Cup since 2002.

Australia exited last year's World Cup in the quarter-finals.

Australia exited last year’s World Cup in the quarter-finals. Credit:Getty

Rennie said it was “absolutely” possible to climb back to the top of the pecking order but that better conditioned athletes and a smarter game style were key.

“You’ve got to be prepared to go 80 minutes against the All Blacks and they can sting you twice in two minutes,” he said.

“So we want to be really well conditioned, try to create really explosive, powerful athletes and then all the technical and tactical stuff will come into it.”

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He added: “We want to kick smart. There’s a real balance to a game I think. We still want to be able to play territory and apply pressure, we still want to play what’s in front of us … we need players with the skill set to do both and at times you’ve got to be brave.

“But I think kicking tactically to shape defences – if they’re narrow you can shoot one to a winger, if they’re up high you can drill things long, and so on. Just having a positive mindset around how we use the ball, then defensively we need to be well-conditioned to consistently bring line-speed and try to slow their ball down to get in front and go again.”

He also emphasised the importance of the Wallabies earning respect off the field.

“Ultimately if we’ve got a group of guys who are working hard for each other and perpared to spill blood for each other and do that for 80 minutes, we’ll earn respect.

“If we’re good in the community but don’t fight for each other on the field, people won’t respect us. If we play good footy but we behave poorly in public then people won’t respect us.”

RA is reviewing the Giteau Law governing the selection of overseas-based players, but Rennie said he favoured picking and developing talent in Australia and bringing home some players.

“For us to have control over their development and conditioning and so on, they really need to be back here,” he said.

“As we know, there’s a lot of guys playing in France, it’s a different game – it’s really tough to come straight out of France and straight into Test level.”

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