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'They've turned on him': Former All Black slams RA's decision to axe Rennie

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Rugby Australia’s staggering decision to axe coach Dave Rennie eight months out from this year’s World Cup has not gone down well across the ditch.

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Former All Blacks first-five Stephen Donald has slammed the decision, as he spoke about how New Zealand coaches wouldn’t want to “go anywhere near Australia.”

The Wallabies are coming off a disastrous campaign in 2022, which saw them come painfully close to recording their worst season since 1958.

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While an incredible comeback win over Wales in Cardiff saw the men in gold avoid that unwanted feat, they only won five of their 14 test matches throughout the year.

The writing was already on the wall for Rennie.

Speculation over Rennie’s future has been rife for quite some time now, but seemed to shift into second gear after a historic loss to Italy.

Then, last month, the Rugby Football Union made the sensational decision to sack World Cup specialist Eddie Jones.

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The rumour mill was well and truly in full swing.

According to multiple reports, a potential homecoming for the Australian-born Jones was on the cards – but in what role remained unknown.

But on Monday morning, Rugby Australia put any rumours to bed, as they confirmed that Jones would replace Rennie as head coach.

World Cup hero Stephen Donald, who won two Super Rugby titles at the Chiefs under Rennie, believes Rugby Australia “turned on” the talented coach.

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“What Dave Rennie is, is he’s probably tactically, technically as good as a Wayne Smith, but he’s also got this ability to mould people,” Donald said on SENZ Breakfast.

“He’s your man next door, he’s the guy that you could go and have a beer with. He plays the guitar, he is all encompassing, he is the complete package as a rugby coach for me.

“He’s without peer in my career as far as where I’d hold him.

“We look back three years, and I thought that was genius. I remember talking to a couple of the Aussie greats at the Japan World Cup when it had all gone t*** up for Aussie again… I said ‘you’ve got to get Rennie, it’s your only hope.’

“They’ve turned on him. You go over the history of Kiwi coaches over there, if you’re a Kiwi coach who has a career in front of him, you wouldn’t go anywhere near Australia.”

Rennie isn’t the first New Zealand-born coach to put pen to paper with traditional rivals Australia, as they look to further their careers.

But unfortunately for Rennie, the 59-year-old also joins a notable list of coaches who have failed to succeed after crossing the Tasman Sea.

“Robbie Deans went there as the most successful Super Rugby coach, highly respected, had already had time in the All Blacks,” he added.

“If it wasn’t for that semi-final against Australia with Mitch then they would have probably been rolled over another campaign, that didn’t happen so Robbie goes and (is) … then takes the Aussie job.

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“Robbie… takes the Aussie job and he lasts a few years, and then the political beasts within Australian rugby get rid of him.

“Kiwis are an easy hit there in Australia.

“They go and get Dave Rennie who in my opinion, counts for nothing, but my opinion he’s the best one (coach) I’ve had, and I’ve had some decent ones. He clearly has been done over again politically.

“Eddie Jones, I can see why they’ve gone this (way), I really do, but it just shows if you’re a Kiwi going over there, you are on a hiding to nothing.

“Australian rugby looks like they’re not actually prepared to confront their own issues… like why aren’t you producing a Larkham anymore? Why isn’t there no Stirling Morlocks coming through?

“The All Blacks this year, yep we haven’t had a great year but never once did you think ‘we just don’t have the players anymore.’

“That’s why I’ve got money on them (New Zealand) to win the World Cup, because I was that confident looking at this group. They’re still, in my opinion when they get going, they’ll be as good as anyone in the world.”

Incoming Wallabies coach Eddie Jones returns to Australian-shores with an unparalleled list of achievements to his name.

After guiding the Wallabies to a World Cup final in 2003, Jones won the sports ultimate prize with the champion Springboks four years later.

The 62-year-old also coached England to a World Cup final in Japan four years ago, which included a famous semi-final win over rivals the All Blacks.

And while it may not be his crowning achievement, Jones also led Japan to an incredible win over the Springboks at the 2015 World Cup.

Wherever Jones goes, success seems to follow – and that bodes well for the future of Australian rugby.

Jones has signed a five-year deal with Rugby Australia, which will include the British and Irish Lions tour in a couple of years.

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