Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at the Wallabies first impression of Dave Rennie, the scoreline helping the young players plot a Bledisloe upset, Auckland-born Irae Simone reflects on selection and Pumas coach Mario Ledesma opens up on his positive COVID test
Rennie impressing so far
As the Wallabies enter camp ahead of the first two Bledisloe test matches in October, the squad continues to sing the praises of new coach Dave Rennie.
Rennie has come under fire from a number of critics after his appointment, with a certain former Australian coach and radio personality doing his best ‘old man yells at cloud’ impression as he accused him of being a coaching ‘co-ordinator’.
This has been immediately rebuffed by Reds number eight Harry Wilson, who revealed that Rennie has been taking charge and putting the squad through an intensive training session in order to build fitness ahead of lockdown.
“Yeah, he’s been real hands-on,” Wilson said.
“Obviously he’s got his assistants, (but) everything’s been going through him.
“On the field today he was running most of the drills and he was just keeping us honest, making sure that we were doing everything 100 per cent because he knows how important it is against the New Zealand teams not to slack off.
“So he was really big today on just doing everything right and that’s something we will have to learn real quickly around the breakdown because there was a big emphasis on that today at training and he was really hands-on running those sessions.”
This was shared by Brumbies centre Irae Simone, who was impressed with up-beat, smart football style that they will look to play when they take the field on October 11.
“I’m liking the style that he wants,” he said.
“It’s just quick footy. We want to play up-speed, with a lot of tempo, a lot of good skill, just playing smart footy and on the back of that we want to be physical, we want to be dominant around the breakdown.
“We just want to be physical, that’s all he’s after and that’s what everyone’s got to buy into, and then play with a lot of skill and good footy.”
That is the scoreline that is inspiring the next generation of the Wallabies as they look to end the Bledisloe drought.
In the extended 44-man squad, there are six Australians that featured in the Junior Wallabies side which beat New Zealand under-20s 24-0 last May.
Reds number eight Harry Wilson is one of those who are using this recent winning experience against the Kiwis as the catalyst for change ahead of the first Bledisloe Cup match on October 11.
“That’s one of the mindsets we have here. We want to win and we don’t want to shy away from that,” Wilson said.
“That’s the past. They’ve won in the past but there are so many new people here and a lot of us haven’t lost to them. Even the ones that have, Australia has been improving a lot recently.
“That’s the past now and we have new coaches here. Everyone is new here. It’s a fresh start and we look forward to it.”
With Wilson expected to slot into the number eight jersey for the Wallabies, the 20-year-old is more than confident that he can step up to the role if called upon.
“I feel if I was given that opportunity I would definitely be ready,” Wilson said.
“But I guess I know there are a lot of other good loose forwards here and I know over the next three weeks I definitely have to try and prove myself and that I’m up for it. I definitely believe I could do a job.
“Over the last 20 years, that’s all my memories – watching Australia against New Zealand in the Bledisloe. A lot of matches stand out.”
Kiwi Irae a Proud Australian
Whilst most of us dreamed about representing the Wallabies from Australia, centre Irae Simone was a bit different.
Simone was born, raised and schooled in Auckland, partnering All Blacks centre and mullet enthusiast Jack Goodhue in the midfield at his Mount Albert Grammar School in Auckland.
However, his allegiances have always lied with the green and gold, with Simone expressing his dream to play for the Wallabies as early as the age of 11 on a home video.
When asked about it, the Brumbies centre admitted that it was surreal to now be in his first Wallabies squad after a breakout season in the nation’s capital.
“What’s funny is that my parents in an old video growing up, they asked me ‘what team would I want to play for’ and I said, ‘the Wallabies’,” Simone told reporters.
“I looked up to a lot of players in the All Blacks, but I’ve never wanted to play for the All Blacks, and my family are huge supporters of the Wallabies.
“Being shown that and being told from my parents what I said back then, it’s crazy, I still have to pinch myself that I’m here.
“I’m pretty grateful to have this opportunity. I’m just going to take it all in, enjoy this experience and hopefully get a few games under myself.”
Despite the lack of success, Simone was confident that the next generation of Australian players could buck the trend and inspire a transformation.
“It’s fair to say they’ve dropped down a few over the past couple of years but I’m with a special group here that’ll take it up again,” Simone said.
“There’s something special brewing in this group and hopefully we can turn that into a winning mindset and win a few games.”
Mario brushing COVID off
Pumas coach Mario Ledesma has assured officials and fans that his positive COVID-19 test and other cases within the national set-up will not impact their plans to travel to Australia for the Rugby Championship.
Ledesma was amongst a handful of Argentinean players and officials that were forced to isolate as a result of the virus, with the former Wallabies assistant playing down the incident.
“I’m all good, I never had symptoms or anything,” Ledesma told the Herald from Buenos Aires.
“Ninety-nine per cent of our staff and players were fine.
Only one guy got symptoms a month ago but the other guys were asymptomatic.
“It’s really weird because we had a lot of positive cases, but all asymptomatic. Some guys were living together, sharing maté [a popular drink in Argentina] and bathrooms but one got it and the other didn’t. It happened in three or four different cases.”
The Pumas have moved their base into Uruguay due to the spread of the virus in the South American country, with over 8,000 cases recorded in the past 24 hours.
Along with this, Argentina has experienced one of the longest lockdown periods in the world, with players stuck in their houses/apartments for four straight months.
This has severely limited their preparations for The Rugby Championship, with Ledesma conceding that they will likely enter the event in November underdone.
“They’ve been struggling through the lockdown,” Ledesma said.
“We need our guys to play footy, not only for the rugby in Argentina but for themselves. We had the longest lockdown in the world and it’s still going on.
“We’re going through the worst part of the pandemic.
“There’s over 10,000 cases a day and 300 people dying every day. The Rugby Championship will be good for their mental health. Also for economic reasons, it’s good for the union too.”