'I'm not blaming the players': Dave Rennie accepts Wallabies not up to scratch
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie insists that he takes full responsibility for the lack of discipline in his team which lay at the root of Australian rugby’s first winless tour to Europe since 1976.
As they headed for home after three dispiriting test defeats in Britain, Rennie’s blast at the “horrendous” officiating in the controversial 29-28 loss to Wales in Cardiff couldn’t disguise how Australia had largely been reckless authors of their own downfall.
In their defeats to Scotland, England and Wales, the Wallabies conceded a total of 45 penalties while being shown four yellow cards as well as Rob Valetini’s calamitous red for a head-on-head hit against Welsh lock Adam Beard in Sunday’s finale.
Taking into account another 11 penalties they also gave away in the consolation victory in Japan, no other team in the Autumn Nations Series was pinged as regularly as Rennie’s side, nor forced to play short-handed for such long periods.
“I thought we were a lot better disciplined [against Wales] and we’d argue a number of those decisions that went against us,” said Rennie, after another 13 penalties conceded against Wales suggested lessons still hadn’t been learned after the 18 against England.
“But we’ve got to be better – we lost the penalty count in all three games we’ve played up here, so we’ve clearly got to adjust better.
“I take responsibility for that. I’m not blaming the players – we’ve got to make sure that we’re disciplined and understand there’s consequences for that [ill-discipline] on game day. We have to be better there.”
Stand-in captain James Slipper too conceded that five cards on tour – yellows for Allan Alaalatoa (v Scotland), Tom Wright and Angus Bell (v England), and Kurtley Beale (v Wales), as well as Valentini’s red, had created insurmountable problems.
“We’ve put a lot of pressure on ourselves and lack of discipline really hurt us, playing predominantly the whole game against Wales with 14 men and that stint down to 13,” said the veteran prop.
“In tests, you just can’t win when you put yourselves under that sort of pressure.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 21, 2021
Nonetheless, Rennie reckoned significant progress had been made with the team.
Saving their best running rugby of the tour for last, it took remarkable resilience for them to stay in the contest with 14 men and almost snatch a wholly improbable win until Rhys Priestland’s 82nd minute penalty winner.
“What we’ve highlighted to everyone back home is there’s a huge amount of courage and character in this group, and you saw it again.”
He reckoned the performance echoed that of the 33-30 win over France in Brisbane in July, largely executed by 14 men after Marika Koroibete’s fifth-minute red card.
“So we’ve got a group of men who’ll dig in and fight for each other. We’ll take learnings out of this,” added Rennie, whose second year at the helm ended with him overseeing a record of won seven, lost seven.
WALLABIES’ 2021 RECORD:
Played 14: Won 7, Lost 7
7th July, Brisbane – Australia 23 France 21
13th July, Melbourne – Australia 26 France 28
17th July, Brisbane – Australia 33 France 30
7th August, Auckland – New Zealand 33 Australia 25
14th August, Auckland – New Zealand 57 Australia 22
5th September, Perth – Australia 21 New Zealand 38
12th September, Gold Coast – Australia 28 South Africa 26
18th September, Brisbane – Australia 30 South Africa 17
25th September, Townsville – Australia 27 Argentina 8
2nd October, Gold Coast – Australia 32 Argentina 17
23rd October, Oita – Japan 23 Australia 32
7th November, Murrayfield – Scotland 15 Australia 13
13th November, Twickenham – England 32 Australia 15
20th November, Cardiff – Wales 29 Australia 28
– Ian Chadband
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