Rennie makes surprising admission about man who 'keeps getting better'
The Wallabies have won four Test matches in a row for the first time since 2017 after a largely clinical 32-17 win over Argentina on Saturday night.
Returning to the Gold Coast, the Wallabies prepared to face a Los Pumas side who’d had key players caught up in Covid issues earlier in the week.
Rising star Jordan Petaia got his opportunity to shine in gold, named on the right wing with Marika Koroibete out due to personal leave. Sean McMahon and Greg Holmes were also named to make their first appearances for the national side in years.
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Tries to Folau Fainga’a and Andrew Kellaway helped the Wallabies race out to an early 15-0 lead. While Samu Kerevi would score just after the break to help make the score 20-3, the night was clearly dominated by one player.
Kellaway’s purple patch of form continued into Saturday night’s Test, with the 25-year-old adding two more in the second half to finish the evening with his first Test hat-trick. He’s been in fine form since making his debut earlier this year against France, having scored eight tries.
After he made a surprising admission about the player of the moment, Coach Dave Rennie described Kellaway as now being a “consistent part of the starting line-up” after the win.
“Kells, he’s got a nose for the line, doesn’t he? Look he’s been excellent and to be honest he wasn’t in our plans about a month before we named the squad, but he came back to the Rebels and played really well,” Rennie said following the 32-17 win.
“We didn’t have an option, he could sort of be a 15, 14, 13. Once he’s got his opportunity, he’s impressed.
“He’s a consistent part of the starting line-up now so real credit to Kells, he’s been really impressive and keeps getting better.”
The Wallabies have introduced a few Test rookies this year, who have gone on to shine on the world stage.
As well as talking about Kellaway, Rennie also highlighted the performances of Len Ikitau, who has been a regular starter for the Wallabies at outside centre. Darcy Swain has also been impressive for the Wallabies this year since making his Test debut.
The Wallabies have closed out their Rugby Championship campaign with a fourth straight victory after picking up a 32-17 win over Los Pumas on the Gold Coast. #Wallabies #LosPumas #ARGvAUS #RugbyChampionship #TRC2021 https://t.co/rMw4f54OVH
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“I think Lenny Ikitau has been fantastic,” Rennie said. “He’s a young man who a year ago was miles away from where he is now so he’s worked really hard.
“He’s got a really good skill set, a very good distributor, had a good kicking game, he hits hard, carries hard. He’s pretty quiet naturally but his voice has increased dramatically over the last couple of months, as has his confidence.
“Nice to see Darcy out there again starting. We think he’s got a big future and he put in a pretty solid performance again tonight.”
While Rennie was “happy to win” against Los Pumas, the scoreline arguably didn’t reflect how dominant the Wallabies were.
After leading 32-3, the Pumas scored 14-points in nine minutes to cut the Wallabies’ lead down to 15 with less than 10 minutes to play.
“We wanted to put the foot on the throat and just lacked a little bit of accuracy, discipline, and just gave them some soft possession and territory, and then we just didn’t defend well from there.
“I thought our defence was excellent for a majority of the game but disappointing in that last stage.
“The positive thing is we’re grumpy after wins. We’ve certainly raised the expectations and we know we’ve got a lot more in us.”
The Wallabies have improved considerably since their three consecutive losses to the All Blacks to start the year.
Since then they’ve gone on to beat the reigning Rugby World Cup champions, South Africa, back-to-back, before their two wins against Argentina.
As captain Michael Hooper discussed, they’re a team who are “gaining momentum” at the moment as they prepare to head to the Northern Hemisphere for four Test matches.
“What’s been pleasing is we’re gaining momentum and creating a bit of Wallaby rugby and how we want to play on the field,” Hooper said.
“At times we’re really dangerous and clinical, physical – stuff that we want to be known for.
“We’ve got to keep growing that, we’re not where we want to be. But pleasing to be gaining a lot of momentum and singing the song in the changeroom.”
The Wallabies will need to be at their best when they take the park in Oita, where they’ll face Japan. The Wallabies last played at Oita Stadium at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, where they lost to England in the quarter-final.
But, as Hooper mentioned, there’s a “great opportunity” for the Wallabies to continue to develop players two years out from the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
“A lot of our guys haven’t been up north (and) we’ve got a World Cup up there in two years so if we have the opportunity to go up there and play in front of full stadiums, it’s going to be great for our growth, great for playing a couple of different teams and European teams at that.
“We’ve got Japan in there who play a very different style of rugby again, very dangerous in what they can do on the park. They really move the ball well.
“Playing different teams, that’s going to pose some different problems and that’s a good challenge for us.”
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