Monday’s Rugby News recaps a wild 48 hours for Australian rugby, covering the results from Super Rugby AU, the new Wallabies squad and the sacking of Rob Penney.
Rennie’s reality check
Dave Rennie has selected his first Wallabies squad (sort of) of 2021 as he announced a 40-man training group for a camp on the Gold Coast next week.
Sevens convert Tim Anstee, Dave Porecki and former Junior Wallabies hooker Lachlan Lonergan were the big winners as Rennie continues to blood new players.
They are joined by Seru Uru, Suliasi Vunivalu and Feleti Kaitu’u as part of the 14 uncapped players in the squad.
However, the biggest talking point came in the front-row, with all three hookers (Fainga’a, BPA, Uelese) that were selected for the Tri-Nations missing out as well as stalwart Scott Sio.
Whilst Rennie refused to use the ‘D’ word, he admitted that their selection policy revolved around the novel concept of picking players on form, with incumbency counting for little.
“We’ve been writing a list out every week and having discussions around it. It’s chopped and changed a little bit,” Rennie said.
“We had our final meeting this morning and there were a few guys on the list – who I won’t mention – that aren’t on the list now.
“Scott Sio – we’re only taking two looseheads in, if you picked that up. Because we wanted four hookers.
“We’re limited to 40 players and I think there are a couple of things there that give Scotty an indication there are a couple guys ahead of him, in our opinion. It’s a message for him to really fire up over the next few weeks.”
2021 Wallabies camp squad (*Uncapped)
Allan Alaalatoa, Tim Anstee*, Tom Banks, Angus Bell, Filipo Daugunu, Pone Fa’amausili*, Jake Gordon, Reece Hodge, Trevor Hosea* Len Ikitau*, Feleti Kaitu’u* Josh Kemeny*, Marika Koroibete, Noah Lolesio, Lachlan Lonergan*, Alex Mafi*, Tate McDermott, Fraser McReight, Andy Muirhead* Isi Naisarani, Cadeyrn Neville*, James O’Connor, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaiam, David Porecki*, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Pete Samu, Irae Simone, James Slipper, Darcy Swain*, Lachlan Swinton, Sitaleki Timani, Matt To’omua, Taniela Tupou, Seru Uru*, Rob Valetini, Suliasi Vunivalu*, Nic White, Harry Wilson, Tom Wright
Penney Has Dropped
The Waratahs have officially sacked Rob Penney after their winless start to the season.
Handed one of the toughest hands in Super Rugby, Penney and the youthful Tahs have struggled throughout the competition, with a host of injuries compounding an already thin roster.
Following Saturday’s loss to the Reds, NSW Rugby chief executive Paul Doorn and their high-performance committee made the formal recommendation to the board that Penney’s contract should be torn up.
“The Board’s decision was taken after consultation with the CEO and the High-Performance Committee following five consecutive defeats with three of them record losses, and after last night’s 46 to 12 loss to the Queensland Reds,” the club said in a statement.
“The Waratahs acknowledge that Penney has been coaching an inexperienced roster of players relative to the other states, however following match reviews, the Board was not convinced there was enough significant improvement in the team to have him continue in the role.”
Doorn thanked Penney for his commitment to the club, believing that the time for a new coach was now.
“The decision to part ways with Penney was not taken lightly,” he said.
“Being the coach of the NSW Waratahs is one of the most high-profile and high-pressure roles in Australian rugby.
“Rob is extremely professional and has put a great deal of effort into the role. However, the on-field performances this season have not met expectations and we feel that, in the best interests of the Waratahs, now is the time to make a change.
“His commitment and concern for the players through a disruptive season and amid trying circumstances is testament to his character and we wish him and his family all the best for the future.”
NSW Waratahs assistant coaches Jason Gilmore and Chris Whitaker have been named as interim head coaches for the remainder of the 2021 season, with a view towards appointing a permanent coach in 2022.
The Waratahs woes have continued as the Reds cruised to a 46-14 victory at Stadium Australia on Saturday night.
Tahs faithful would’ve been chanting to stop the count when they hit the front thanks to a pair of Will Harrison penalties.
However, the Reds would once again reel them back in, with Test trio Tate McDermott, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Filipo Daugunu crossing for tries to take a 22-9 lead into the break.
Whilst the Waratahs continued to fight, new Wallabies squad member Alex Mafi celebrated his impending selection with an electric performance off the bench.
Mafi would cross for a second-half hat-trick, allowing the Reds to close out the game and top spot on the ladder.
Reds captain James O’Connor was sympathetic for what his opponents had gone through, confident that they would bounce back when they eventually receive their full allotment of players back from injury.
“I feel for them,” O’Connor said.
“Credit, they played the full 80 minutes. They’ve had some crucial injuries.
“I think once their big players come back they’re going to be a team to beat because they do move the ball around well and they do what to play, which is exciting.”
“It’s very hard to come down here and win. Our game plan worked tonight.”
Injured NSW skipper Jake Gordon was left disappointed by their poor finish, hopeful of returning for next week’s clash with the Brumbies.
We came out of the blocks pretty well and got off to a nice 6-0 lead. A disappointing finish,” said Gordon.
“We find ourselves in good position on the field and compound errors with either a knock on or an offside penalty.
“Obviously our discipline needs to be better. We need to hold the ball to get any result against the Reds.”
If only they knew what was coming 24hrs later…
The Brumbies have bounced back following their shock loss to the Reds, dominating the Western Force with a 42-14 victory at GIO Stadium.
They seemed to take their last start loss personally, racing out to a 28-0 lead at the break, with centre Len Ikiatu crossing for a double.
The Force would recover as they scored their first points in the second half, with ex-Brumby Tevita Kuridrani setting up Henry Taefu to score in the 53rd minute.
However, that seemed to anger the boys from Canberra, with new Wallaby Lachlan Lonergan burrowing over four minutes later.
They would cap the win off with a try to Andy Muirhead, someone who more than deserved his call up to the Wallabies in my humble opinion.
Having stewed on the Reds defeat, Brumbies halfback Nic White revealed that they made it their mission to playing positive rugby on their return.
“It’s never fun going into a bye week after a loss and we stewed on that for two weeks as we waited to get out and throw it around,” White told Stan Sports.
“I was really proud of the way the boys wanted to play the game – we played some good rugby.”
Meanwhile, his Force counterpart Brynard Stander was left shell-shocked, lamenting the way they gave up the easy lead in the first half.
“The first 20 minutes we didn’t touch the ball – obviously too many mistakes on our end, too many penalties, and we allowed the Brumbies to keep pressure on us,” Stander said.
“We go to Melbourne after the bye and come back to two home games back-to-back. Now it has to be three from three, it’s a bit like finals footy from now on for us. We have to refocus quickly, and we will.” head coach Tim Sampson added.