‘Deserves a crack’: Everything Rennie said on Tate, tactics and his Wallabies overhaul
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie made eight changes for the decisive Test against France, including a huge gamble on youth at the base of the scrum, but played down suggestions his team would be affected by the short turn around from Melbourne’s close defeat.
Australia went with a settled 23 in the opening two matches, including just one starting team change, but head to Brisbane with a revamped line up.
Rennie, speaking to the media ahead of Saturday’s third Test in Brisbane, said he and Wallabies staff had a plan in place to cope with the challenges of the short turnaround. Saturday’s decider is a third Test in 11 days.
He also seemed to shrug off the relative intensity of Test match rugby to Wallabies training camp in saying: “Some of our trainings are actually tougher than the games we’ve played so far, around the running metrics and physicality.
“We knew we would need to manage certain players and we’ve done that.”
The biggest talking points come around the base of the scrum. Tate McDermott replaces Jake Gordon at No.9 while Noah Lolesio and Hunter Paisami are joined by Len Ikitau in the centres. The four of them have 17 caps between them leaving Paisami as the leader of an inexperienced group.
Former Wallabies scrumhalf Will Genia has been calling for Rennie to give McDermott a start, and was also thrilled with Ikitau’s run on debut.
“He’s a player for the future,” Genia told The Roar. “He’s got the ability to break tackles , and there’s something about him. One on one he’s really good at beating the first up man. He’s physical, young and when you watch certain players, he’ll bring a point of difference.
“I like the idea of him in the centres with Hunter. It’s a very young set up. I love the fact he’s given Noah an opportunity to play out all three games and I’m obviously a huge Tate McDermott fan, so I can not wait to see what he does from the start.”
Rennie spoke about McDermott, Ikitau and plenty more during his press conference. Here are the highlights.
On Tate McDermott and the young backline
“He’s played well, he’s done everything we’ve asked from him off the bench. Playing in Brisbane and his home ground to get his first start, he’s worked really hard, and deserves a crack,” Rennie said.
“Jake’s played a few fair few minutes as well and we are really fortunate with the depth we’ve got there.
“Tate’s been working really hard on his core skills around the quality of his distribution and his kicking game, and he brings a lot of energy.”
Rennie was asked if a reluctance to pick him from the start earlier in the season because of weakness in core skills.
“That’s probably fair,” Rennie said. “We have other guys like Nic White, Ryan Lonergan has very good core skills and Jake obviously.
“But Tate provides a point of difference and we like that about him. He’s worked really hard on his core part of his games to see him developing quickly and we just want him to go out and play with the confidence that he does in Super Rugby.
“Hunter has had an excellent season and so has Lenny. Lenny is a bit different. For the Brumbies he’s got a great skill set and the ability to pass out of his hands under pressure, really good feet and is aggressive in the carry and in defence.
“He’s got a left foot which we like, to complement Hunter who can be dynamic with and without the ball and got a really good kicking game.”
On Paisami being the ‘veteran’ of the four young backs with eight Tests
“If you talk to James O’Connor, with Hunter outside him he talked about how much he’s grown, how specific his communication is so James can concentrate on his part of the field and trust the guys outside him.
“Hunter was put into our leadership group because we want more out of him and because he’s got a strong connection with the young men within the group.
“He talks well, he’s not a noisy character, and we want more out of him. When you look at that inside group he’s experienced one with 8 Tests.
“It’s a great opportunity for him to step up and help the other guys.
“We often talk about being a different creature when you cross the chalk. It’s ok to be a mild-mannered man off the field but we need to see a different side of him when he crosses the chalk and we see that in how he plays. We also want him to lead and be vocal. He’s showing those signs.”
On Taniela Tupou being pushed back to the bench after starting game two
“We are lucky we have a couple of world-class tight heads,” said Rennie. “They are quite different.
“ has a massive work ethic and is very strong around the maul, and Taniela is a beast isn’t he?
“I thought he played really well in Melbourne – he was powerful in the carry, his workrate and his ability to get back on his feet and back in the game.
“What we know is Taniela off the bench is a real weapon and a real point-of-difference in that last 30 or 40 minutes.
“History would probably tell us that he’s probably done better off the bench but I thought he was really good in the second match. He played really well in Wellington last year when he got a start.
“Those guys were always going to share the load and as it turns out they’ve been playing 50 and 30 so they’re both getting reasonable game time to make an impact.”
On the Wallabies needing to improve their kicking game
“We didn’t see a lot of kicking in Melbourne – I think we kicked the ball just nine times and one of those was half-time with Marika catching it and kicking it over the sideline,” said Rennie.
“We’ve talked about getting balance to our game. We want to see opportunities to kick and turn the French around. We’re pretty confident they’ll probably give it back to us.
“We want to have a real optimistic mindset around how we play. We think we are fitter and can play up tempo.
“It comes with a bit of balance. We should have hurt them from one of the kickoffs but we didn’t, we went multiphase and then turned it over.
“We’re talking about times when we need to kick on the front foot and add balance to our game.”
On the discipline of Lachlan Swinton, who has been called up at flanker
“He’s got a bit of reputation – he got a red card at club level for having a punch up. That’s pretty standard for a forward,” Rennie said.
“He got a red card recently that wasn’t deserved and rectified and then he got a red card in his first Test.
“We looked at 35 minutes when he was devastating defensively and he got one wrong. Six months earlier that wouldn’t have been a card, let alone a red card.
“Lachy’s ready to go. There’s very little in some of those selections. We want him to be really physical and that’s his point of difference, why would you tell him not to do that?”
On the French tactic of laying on the ground and getting in the way of the cleanout
“We spoke about it after the first Test. If you get caught you have to roll east or west, they tend to get on their hands and knees.
“They’ve got no right to be there. They need to be strong around that and we felt they were able to slow a lot of our ball down.
“We want quick ball. We’re happy for refs to be tough on us. We’re not talking about this to influence referees but we’ll be sharing our views. Quick ball for us is massive.”
On James O’Connor’s injury setback
“He tweaked his groin again on gameday. Not quite as bad as first thought and hopefully he’ll be back for the All Blacks series.”
On Fraser McReight missing out
“He’s really unlucky. He’s trained superbly. He probably couldn’t have done any more to gain a jersey. But going into a decider we want our best players in the mix. It’s a Test match, we don’t rotate for the sake of giving a blokes a crack, but he’s been impressive.
“He’ll get his chance, just not this series.”
Wallabies team for third Test vs France
1. James Slipper
2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa
3. Allan Alaalatoa
4. Darcy Swain
5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
6. Lachlan Swinton
7. Michael Hooper (c)
8. Isi Naisarani
9. Tate McDermott
10. Noah Lolesio
11. Marika Koroibete
12. Hunter Paisami
13. Len Ikitau
14. Filipo Daugunu
15. Tom Banks
16. Jordan Uelese
17. Angus Bell
18. Taniela Tupou
19. Matt Philip
20. Rob Valetini
21. Jake Gordon
22. Matt To’omua
23. Reece Hodge