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'It's exciting': Wallabies boss Rennie eyes up titanic England clash

By Alex McLeod

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Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie says his side need to be at their best to overcome England in what promises to be a titanic encounter at Twickenham on November 14.

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Rennie named his 37-man end-of-year tour squad on Friday just over two weeks out from Australia’s opening clash against Japan in Oita on October 23.

The tour will also feature matches against Scotland in Edinburgh and Wales in Cardiff, with those tests sandwiching the heavyweight battle against England in London.

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It’s that test that has plenty of onlookers licking their lips in anticipation, but Rennie has played down the anticipation surrounding that fixture, where he will go head-to-head with former Wallabies boss Eddie Jones for the first time in his career.

Instead, Rennie says his side’s focus is solely on the Brave Blossoms clash as the Wallabies prepare to return to Japan for the first time since the 2019 World Cup, where, under the guidance of ex-head coach Michael Cheika, they were bundled out of the tournament at the quarter-final stage by England in Oita.

“It’s three games away. Our focus is on Japan at the moment. We’ve had a few down days where we can get a bit of study done, so we’re looking at all four opponents from a coaching perspective, but the focus will be on Japan,” Rennie told reporters on Friday.

“They’re a good side. Very well-coached, they’ve got a high skill-set, their ability to generate really quick ball, just technically excellent, so that’s going to be a massive challenge.

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“I know Jamie [Joseph, Japan head coach], they’ve been preparing a long time for this game, so that’s got to be our focus.

“It’s exciting. We’ve had 10 tests so far, all have been really tough opponents, and we’ve got four more really high-quality games and high-quality opponents, so that’s great for us.

“We always looked at this year as massive for our development and our learning, so we’ve learned a lot and we’ve got a lot more in us.

“Hopefully we’ll be a bit further down the track in our development when we play England at Twickenham in a few weeks. We’re going to have to be very good. They’re a very good side.”

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In preparation for the trip to the northern hemisphere, Rennie has overhauled his stocks at hooker, with Folau Fainga’a and Feleti Kaitu’u the sole survivors in that position from the playing group that finished second in the recently-completed Rugby Championship.

The new additions to the middle of the front row have been headlined by Stade Francais rake Tolu Latu, who is one of three foreign-based stars included in the touring party after years without test rugby by virtue of playing club rugby overseas.

The naming of Latu in the Wallabies squad has overshadowed the further addition of uncapped prospect Connal McInerney, with both players taking the places of Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Lachlan Lonergan and replacement player Jordan Uelese.

Rennie made particular note of McInerney’s inclusion and Longergan’s exclusion, saying that although he highly rates the latter, the skill-set of the former could prove to be crucial against European opponents.

“I rate Lachie Longergan really highly. He’s a bit of a lightweight at the moment, he’s about 103-104 kilos,” Rennie said.

“We think he’s got a real point of difference in his game, throws well, needs to really embrace scrummaging and put on some size and some mixed strength, and so a decent off-season is going to allow him to do that.

“He’s good enough to tour, but we still think this is best long-term. There’s obviously been a number of hookers who have been out long-term injury-wise.

“Connal’s been in our mix before. We like him. He’s old-school, very good [at the] set piece, it’s going to be important over in the UK, so a chance for him to get out in front of us again and show he’s capable of playing at this level.”

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'It's exciting': Wallabies boss Rennie eyes up titanic England clash

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