Plus, Rennie is now that close to getting his hands on the players he agreed to coach more than a year ago. Saturday’s top-of-the-table tussle was encouraging in more ways than one.
“It’s probably the first game that we’ve seen genuine intensity and skillset and continuity,” he said of the Brumbies’ 22-20 triumph over Queensland.
Lock is certainly a position we’ve had a bit of a discussion around…
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie
“That’s what you tend to see from the Kiwi games, they’re really intense. And because teams are really well-conditioned over there, their skillset doesn’t fall apart under fatigue and under pressure. Those games have been great, so it was really good to see that sort of intensity and continuity last night.
“We want to see plenty more of that, we need our players to be exposed, to be put under pressure for long periods.”
Rennie revealed he and the Wallabies assistants were jotting down a ‘form XV’ from every round, plus a likely Wallabies XV that could also include players from whichever team had the bye.
Their lists are a more fluid version of the ‘PONI’ (players of national interest) squad they prepared back in March and will be crucial given the short turnaround Australia will have between the Super Rugby final and the first Bledisloe Test.
Rennie is looking at three weeks with his first Wallabies squad leading into the provisional October 10 clash with New Zealand, a match he acknowledges will be a “baptism of fire” for a side likely to feature plenty of fresh faces.
Australia’s preparation will be a month shorter than the All Blacks’, with Super Rugby Aotearoa wrapping up on August 16 with no play-offs or final, and Australia’s form players likely to be wrapped up in competition until September 19.
Adding to the David and Goliath dynamic, Rennie’s movements and those of his assistants could well be hampered by Australia’s ongoing COVID19 battle, which has shut state borders and forced the Super sides into biosecurity bubbles. In contrast, Ian Foster and his All Blacks assistants will be unimpeded in their travels around the New Zealand franchises.
“There’s little obstacles, it’s just the way it is, though. We can’t look for excuses, we’ve got to look for other ways to create change and we’re going to have to maximise our time when we’ve got our chance with the boys,” he said.
“Our job is to be really well-planned and we’re doing a lot of that now so as teams drop out, we can potentially put a bit of focus into the individuals that are going to come in.
“But if the final involved the two teams that played [on Saturday] it’s a big chunk of our PONI group and potentially a big chunk of our squad.”
Rennie confirmed he will ask for dispensation to bring back one or two second rowers who are playing abroad but says he will otherwise reward players in the Australian system.
Rob Simmons announced he was joining English club London Irish this week. The 100-Test veteran will be available here or abroad but is the only one in that situation, with neither Rory Arnold, Will Skelton, Izack Rodda nor Adam Coleman eligible for overseas selection under current Giteau Law provisions.
“Our thinking is we’ll pick from here unless we feel we absolutely need to go outside the country,” he said.
“Lock is certainly a position we’ve had a bit of a discussion around but, if you look at the rest of the spots, while we need to establish more depth there’s some good quality and good kids coming through. Some of that will be an opportunity to blood some of those guys for the future.”
Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.