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Abysmal Waratahs sack head coach Rob Penney

Rob Penney. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

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NSW Waratahs coach Rob Penney has been abruptly sacked after his team’s abject 0-5 start to the Super Rugby AU season.


New Zealander Penney was told of the decision on Sunday morning, with his assistants Jason Gilmore and Chris Whitaker named as interim head coaches for the remainder of the 2021 season.

The board says its decision was taken after consultation with the chief executive Paul Doorn and the high-performance committee following five consecutive defeats, three of them record losses.

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Saturday night’s 46-12 defeat by the Queensland Reds proved the final straw.

In the second season of a three-year deal, 56-year-old Penney was battling to extract consistent performances from an inexperienced squad after a host of high-profile players departed in recent years.

“The Waratahs acknowledge that Penney has been coaching an inexperienced roster of players relative to the other states,” the board said in a statement.

“However following match reviews, the board was not convinced there was enough significant improvement in the team to have him continue in the role.”


Penney’s sacking came just hours after he called for more resources and better targetted recruiting to fast-track progress as the Waratahs face the prospect of becoming the first Australian team in 25 years of Super Rugby to endure a winless campaign.

“We need resources and we need to strategically recruit in a couple of areas so the organisation can move forward more quickly than just relying on the youthful guys to come through,” Penney said after Saturday night’s loss.

“There’s a whole lot of issues that have culminated in what now is a very ugly-looking run of games.

“If it wasn’t for the calibre of people in the organisation and the calibre of men that are in the group trying to do the jersey proud, then this would have blown up and disintegrated massively.


“No one likes it. No one is enjoying it, in terms of the results, but there’s a real resolve to try to get better every week.”

He insisted he wanted to stay in the job.

“I love what I’m doing,” Penney said. “With the initial stages when I was bought in, it was (a question of) could I bring a young group through?

“Of course I can. I would back my record against anyone to be able to do that.

“(But) you do need to have a combination of youth surrounded by experience.”

Also speaking post-match, Reds coach Brad Thorn urged the Waratahs to “play the long game” with Penney as the Reds did with him during their rebuild.


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