Ren­nie to be schooled in the ‘Aussie way’

New Zealan­der takes first na­tional post

Pretoria News - - SPORT - |

FOR­MER school­teacher Dave Ren­nie has a track record of guid­ing rugby teams to cham­pi­onships and glory but he will need to get used to tak­ing in­struc­tion when he starts work as Wal­la­bies coach in mid-2020.

Tasked yes­ter­day with lead­ing Aus­tralia to the 2023 World Cup, Ren­nie will re­port to Di­rec­tor of Rugby Scott John­son, who will have a heavy hand in ap­point­ing the 55-year-old’s staff and his play­ers as a se­lec­tor.

John­son and the se­lec­tion panel were foisted upon Ren­nie’s pre­de­ces­sor Michael Cheika at the end of a dis­as­trous 2018, when the Wal­la­bies won only four of their 13 tests in their worst sea­son in decades.

For Cheika, who had been ac­cus­tomed to com­plete au­ton­omy, it was a hum­bling ar­range­ment and in­stantly soured his re­la­tion­ship with Rugby Aus­tralia (RA) and the body’s chief ex­ec­u­tive Rae­lene Cas­tle.

By ap­point­ing a New Zealan­der, RA have ig­nored calls from Cheika and a slew of pun­dits and for­mer play­ers for the next Wal­la­bies coach to be home grown.

John­son, how­ever, has spelled out the lim­its of RA’s cos­mopoli­tan out­look, say­ing Ren­nie’s staff should have an “Aus­tralian flavour”.

“We’re in di­a­logue about that,” John­son, who was Scot­land’s di­rec­tor of rugby be­fore tak­ing up the RA role in March, told re­porters in Sydney yes­ter­day.

“The next cy­cle we need to have gen­uine con­tenders for this po­si­tion com­ing through our sys­tem.”

Ren­nie may have his own ideas about who he wants to work with, and they will be given full con­sid­er­a­tion – so long as they ac­cord with RA’s views.

John­son has all but anointed Scott Wise­man­tel, cur­rently Eng­land’s at­tack coach, and an­other Aus­tralian in Matt Tay­lor, the Scot­land de­fence coach, as Ren­nie’s as­sis­tants.

“Ev­ery­one knows he’s a good friend of mine … he’d be a wel­come ad­di­tion,” he said of Wise­man­tel be­fore of­fer­ing a sim­i­lar en­dorse­ment of Tay­lor.

With the Wal­la­bies job to be Ren­nie’s first at the high­est level – and still a plum role de­spite the twice world cham­pi­ons’ strug­gles in re­cent years – the New Zealan­der has sounded will­ing to get with the pro­gramme.

“First thing is to es­tab­lish a high qual­ity man­age­ment and coach­ing group … I think it’s im­por­tant we have a re­ally strong Aus­tralian flavour in that group,” said Ren­nie in a video posted by RA.

Ren­nie will be busy com­plet­ing his com­mit­ments with Glas­gow War­riors un­til June 2020 so John­son and his as­sis­tants will do much of the leg­work for the na­tional team in the in­terim.

Be­fore get­ting to grips with the job, Ren­nie should per­haps pon­der what is meant by the “Aussie way” – a term used by the coun­try’s rugby es­tab­lish­ment to de­scribe what it deems is the de­sired brand of rugby for the na­tion and its fans.

For Cheika, an iron-clad com­mit­ment to at­tack­ing rugby pro­duced a quar­ter-fi­nal exit at the World Cup in Ja­pan and a ca­reer win record of 50%, the equal worst of any Aus­tralia coach in the mod­ern era.

“That’s the way Aussies want us to play,” Cheika said af­ter his last game in charge.

Rob­bie Deans, the New Zealan­der who coached the Wal­la­bies for five years, won nearly 60% of his games with a more de­fen­sive style.

But he was deemed to have strayed from the “Aussie way” and was duly swept away fol­low­ing the se­ries de­feat to the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions in 2013.

For John­son, how­ever, Ren­nie pre­sented as a “hum­ble man” and one who coaches “an at­trac­tive style of rugby” that most Aus­tralians will en­joy.

“I’m all for any coach that has a phi­los­o­phy that says ‘this is what I’m go­ing to live or die by,’” he said.

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DAVE Ren­nie has been tasked with lead­ing Aus­tralia to the 2023 World Cup.

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