Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at Dave Rennie’s break from coaching tradition, the ominous warning from the Brumbies, Liam Wright’s surprise reaction to last week’s narrow loss and the bold message that the Waratahs will look to send against the Reds.
North of the border
Not contempt with being a Kiwi, Dave Rennie is set to break further tradition as he becomes just the 2nd Wallabies coach in almost four decades to make his base in Queensland.
Rennie will look to distance himself from the Mosman mafia and head for the sunshine state once his two week hotel quarantine period ends.
He told the Sydney Morning Herald that the decision was made in order to link up with wife’s family along with the rest of the coaching staff, who are based in southeast Queensland and northern NSW.
“I want to make sure Steph has plenty of support around her. I’ve got a couple of sisters in Queensland, we’ve got lots of family, a lot of our coaching group is up there as well so their partners as well, and it made sense,” Rennie said.
“No doubt I’ll still spend a bit of time in Sydney but ensuring that Steph was going to have plenty of support around her when I’m not around was important.
“We’re going to rent for a little while and then buy, so somewhere between Brisbane and Gold Coast.”
The former Glasgow boss isn’t concerned about the so-called ‘history’ behind turning down a Sydney stay, suggesting that it won’t matter when you consider the intense domestic and international travel that the role requires.
“I’m going to spend a lot of time away from home,” Rennie said.
“For half the year you’re playing international footy and travelling and then for the other half of the year my plan is to get around and have a presence in Super Rugby, so a lot of time away from home.”
Interestingly, the only coach that is set to based outside of Queensland is the expected forwards coach Dan McKellar.
Whilst he hasn’t been confirmed yet, it is expected that the Brumbies boss will be confirmed in the position throughout the coming weeks, staying in the nation’s capital as he performs double duties.
Bank on it
Brumbies fullback Tom Banks has sent an ominous warning to the rest of the competition, suggesting that the comp leaders are yet to hit full stride.
As we enter the reverse legs of the Super Rugby Australian competition, the boys from ACT are the only team that remains undefeated, with a late Mack Hansen penalty goal last week maintaining their perfect run so far.
Whilst the Australian fullback suggests that the side will take confidence out of their record, he still believes that they are yet to play their best football.
“Obviously a lot of confidence,” Banks told media when asked about their perfect record.
“We probably haven’t played our best footy yet so looking at the second round of this competition and again this week, we’re going to try to find some more attacking shape and really try to put some good phases together so we can build towards that finals competition.
“You’re not going to play you best footy every game but those tough games in cold nights, you need to just grind out a victory and we did that really well.”
With the Brumbies preparing for a trip to Leichhardt Oval to face the Rebels, Banks is preparing for an 80+ minute performance against a side that is all too familiar with ‘Super Time’.
“Every time we play them it’s a really, really physical game and we know they’re going to bring that so it’s about stepping up and aiming up physically to stop their go-forward,” he said.
“It starts with their forward pack – they’ve got some really strong ball carriers so we need to nullify that and then in the backs, Matt Toomua is playing some really good footy testing out the opposition backline so we’re going to have our hands full.”
After their narrow loss to the Brumbies, many would expect the Reds to be gutted as the ACT side jubilantly celebrated the last-gasp victory.
However, Reds captain Liam Wright believes that the ‘grand-final like’ celebration from the Brumbies after the match shows that they are on the right track and serious contenders.
“It shows for us the respect they have for us that we’re a good team and it takes a lot to beat us,” Wright said.
“It’s a bit of a token that we can us that teams are pretty stoked to beat us and we’re not just easy beats anymore. It takes a long hard 80-minute battle to get that result.
“For us, it’s still round four, we’ll save that celebration until the end of the season.
“We’ve got to put together more consistent performances, and have a few more games to rectify that…for us, it’s not crunch time just yet.”
As they prepare for a trip south of the (Tweed) border against their natural rivals in the Waratahs, Wright admits that they need to work on their discipline and line-out if they wish to secure the double over the Tahs.
“Our defence held really strong, which was a positive for us, but we didn’t restrict their (the Brumbies’) game plan,” he said.
“We had a must-win (lineout) ball at the end which we lost, and just gave them another opportunity to win the game.”
With the fly in, fly out nature of the competition, it made for a ‘weird’ trip home after they were forced to share a flight and bus with referee Nic Berry, with Wright playing down any animosity.
“It is a bit weird flying in and out with the refs, and that’s just part and parcel of this fly in-fly out stuff,” Wright said.
“We have a little joke with them afterwards but it was fine. Everyone’s got a job to do, and they did theirs.
“Bez is a good fella. I thought his interaction with me was really respectful.”
Forget mate against mate
That’s the message being floated out of the NSW camp as they look to turn around their season heading into the final five rounds of the competition.
After a hot and fiery opening round clash, NSW halfback Jake Gordon is expecting a similar slugfest when they host the Reds on Saturday at the SCG.
Whilst Gordon was still on the mend for the 32-26 loss five weeks ago, it allowed him to have a front-row seat to the intense contest, with a series of flare-ups and scuffles setting the tone for an electric Super Rugby Australia competition.
Couple that with a public and private spray after their last game loss to the Rebels, and Gordon is expecting a fired-up Tahs outfit to take it to their northern rivals.
“It’s not a great relationship between the Waratahs and the Reds and this week we’ve really ramped up the contact,” he said.
I definitely think after that first game, the fire’s in the belly,
“We’ve seen at training this week the boys are really ready to go and excited to put on a really good performance.
“There was a lot of feeling in that game. They’d lost 10 in a row so I guess it was time they got their win under the belt but for us we probably, after reviewing that game, was probably a little bit of heat in that game and we’re looking to bring in this match definitely this time we play them.”
The main priority for the Waratahs across the break has been their effort in defence, with their impressing running numbers not stacking up on the scoreboard.
“We’re obviously talking about not working hard enough,” Gordon said.
“Our running numbers, from what I’ve been told, are superior to other Super Rugby teams.
“It’s almost like a mental lapse where we’re waiting for something to happen rather than focusing more on yourself and doing your best role in the team, whether that be getting back on side or making that tackle, making a conscious effort to get out of the way.”