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If the Wallabies don't want Dave Rennie, the All Blacks should take him

By Hamish Bidwell
(Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

I see talk emerging from Australia suggesting Dave Rennie should be sacked as Wallabies coach.

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What an absolute load of rubbish.

The ills that plague Australia’s national team have little or nothing to do with Rennie.

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I get that New Zealand have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003. And I’m conscious that Rennie’s win rate as Wallabies head coach hovers at around 40 per cent.

But it wouldn’t matter who Australia have in charge of that team. They’re just not very good –  and haven’t been for 20 years.

Eddie Jones, John Connolly, Robbie Deans, Ewen McKenzie and Michael Cheika were all good coaches, but their yardstick for success as Wallabies coach was always the All Blacks.

None of them could match New Zealand’s standards and all ended up vacating the position.

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You want to know how bad the Wallabies are? They just lost 40-14 to an Ian Foster-coached All Blacks side.

That’s how bad they are.

You have to be careful what you wish for as a coach and I was a little surprised Rennie took that job following the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

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He’d already seen Deans’ international coaching career die on that hill and yet he accepted Rugby Australia’s offer anyway.

Maybe Rennie had the pip with New Zealand Rugby. Maybe he genuinely thought Australia could muster a competitive side one day.

But it must gall him to see how things have gone.

I’m sure most of us would acknowledge Rennie to be a better coach than Foster. Their records prior to taking on their respective roles would certainly suggest so.

But while Foster’s inadequacies can be covered up by the obvious talent within his All Blacks squad, Rennie has been left badly exposed by Australia’s lack of depth, brains and ability.

It would be nice to think that you could cobble together a semi-competitive Wallabies side from five ordinary Super Rugby outfits, but clearly you can’t. Poor old Rennie instead has to rope in players well past their prime such as Bernard Foley.

As a quick aside, I wrote last week that the Wallabies had fired their Bledisloe Cup shot for 2022. That Foley’s refusal to kick the flaming ball out in Melbourne had robbed the team of any chance of victory against the All Blacks this year.

They were never going to be competitive in the return match at Eden Park, but nor were they allowed to be.

I watched the game at a rugby club, deep in the heart of one of New Zealand’s smaller provincial unions.

There were no Wallabies fans in the house, but all of us wanted a contest.

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Sure, Australia turned out to be cannon-fodder, somewhat less than credible opposition, but only after referee Andrew Brace had blown them off the park in the early exchanges.

We groaned every time his whistle blew, or he brandished another yellow card, because we actually just wanted to see 15-on-15.

Good on the All Blacks for winning, but the occasion quickly became pretty anti-climatic.

We’ll never know what a Rennie-coached All Blacks team might look like. Maybe he’ll get another crack at international coaching, as Jones has, but more likely he’ll end up in Japan like Deans.

I have always liked Rennie, always rated him as a coach and leader and communicator and always thought he would make an excellent All Blacks head coach.

I doubt he’ll get that opportunity now and I find that a shame.

I will forever believe that he would’ve done far more with this All Blacks team than Foster ever has.

And that’s what I would say to those in Australia who believe Rennie has to go as Wallabies coach. That, if you think he’s so bad, the reality is many New Zealand rugby fans would gladly have him in charge of our team.

Sack Rennie if you want, but the results won’t be any better. Not when the team’s full of players barely worth a run in New Zealand’s NPC.

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