He might have picked 16 uncapped players in his squad, but new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie insists his side has been picked for the here and now and to win.
In recent weeks pundit and former Wallabies centre Rod Kafer has called for Rennie to pick an U24s squad to focus on succeeding at the next two World Cups.
While not going that far, Rennie admitted his squad was picked with an “eye to the future” but emphatically said he wouldn’t compromise results and that the men selected had earned their call-ups.
“No one will be happy if we keep saying that we’ve picked a squad for the World Cup and we don’t get any results for the next few years,” the two-time Super Rugby-winning coach told Rugby Australia’s official website.
“We’ve picked obviously with an eye to the future, but a lot of these young men have been given their opportunity at Super rugby level and they’ve fronted and so we’re going to try and get them in our environment and accelerate their development further.
“And there’s enough experience in there to help with that as well.
“We’ve got some experienced players who may not still to be around by the time the World Cup comes around.
“We’re pretty excited with the young talent that’s coming through and no doubt there’ll be some other young fellas over the next couple of years who will force their way in.”
Out of the 44 selected for the Wallabies, 16 are uncapped.
A further 13 have yet to play more than 10 Tests, while eight players selected only made their Super Rugby debuts in 2020.
Even still, with one simple “yes” Rennie said his side could beat the All Blacks.
The reason for his firm belief?
“They’ve always had sides capable of winning haven’t they,” he said bluntly.
Rennie knows the steep road ahead for the Wallabies, who dropped to seventh on the World Rugby rankings after crashing out of the 2019 World Cup in the quarter-final stages against England.
The former New Zealand U20s coach won back-to-back titles in his first two years in charge of the Chiefs after replacing new All Blacks coach Ian Foster in 2012.
While Rennie said that he had been pleased by the improvement shown from Australia’s sides throughout Super Rugby AU, he added that the level of intensity would be a huge step up against the All Blacks.
“What we know is that Super Rugby Aotearoa was real high quality, real high intensity so we’ve got to make sure that in our preparations we can train with the sort of intensity, hence the reason why we’re not excited about the quarantine protocols,” he added.
1⃣6⃣ uncapped players
❌ No place for Isi Naisarani
🇦🇺 Dave Rennie selects his first Australia squad. 👇 https://t.co/FNOHRzy4ok
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) September 13, 2020
As a concession to winning the right to host November’s Rugby Championship, the Wallabies will play two Bledisloe fixtures across the ditch in October.
Had those Tests been played in Australia, the opening Bledisloe Test had been earmarked for October 10.
That will all but certainly be pushed back until October 17 now though given the hard-line quarantine approach from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, which would mean that the Wallabies wouldn’t be able to train as a full squad together for the bulk of the lead up into the opening Test.
While New Zealand Rugby had been keen to keep the original date, Rennie was adamant October 17 would be the earliest his squad could play a Test given his squad will only meet for the first time following the Super Rugby AU final on September 19 and the fact that the All Blacks are already training together.
“Well hopefully they’re (the bubble size) still up for negotiation,” said Rennie.
“I mean Mark Robinson, he said when New Zealand missed out on the Rugby Championship it was because of the quarantine protocols which were restrictive and made it difficult for the way teams wanted to prepare, but New Zealand Rugby’s got an expectation that we jump on a plane a day after the Super Rugby final, have two weeks in quarantine where we can’t prepare as a team and play a Test seven days later and, under those quarantine arrangements, I can assure you we won’t be playing a Test that weekend.”
As well as the Test schedule, there are still a number of unanswered questions surrounding the makeup of the Wallabies squad.
Who will be the captain? Who will play in the halves? What will be the makeup of the midfield?
And who, if any, will Rennie send an SOS to from overseas after Rugby Australia amended their eligibility laws to allow two foreign-based players to be selected for 2020 only?
While Rennie admitted he was “nervous” after not coaching since his final season with Glasgow Warriors was cut short way back in February, he said excitement was the overarching feeling heading into the start of the Test season.
“I’m really excited to get on the grass,” he said.
“We’ve done a lot of planning. Even as a management group we haven’t been able to spend much time together, we’ve done four million Zooms.
“I can’t wait to get together face to face and get on the grass and build things from there.
“We started fresh (with the squad) and it’s moved and changed a lot over that period of time.
“It’s been exciting because we’ve had some established players who have worked really hard to get into the type of shape we need to play their game and a lot of young men who have put their hand up early.
“We think it’s a good balance in there but everyone is justifiably picked.”
So the Michael Cheika era is well and truly over; it’s the start of a new dawn.