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There is a distinct chance the Wallabies could return home winless

By Nick Turnbull
The Wallabies look an after conceding a try during The Rugby Championship match between the Australia Wallabies and South Africa Springboks at Allianz Stadium on September 03, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The great John Lennon once said, “Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it’ll always get you the right ones.”

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It appears that Dave Rennie has got the right friend in recently appointed assistant Laurie Fisher who stated about the Wallabies’ loss to Argentina in San Juan, “I saw one clip from that game and said ‘This can’t be us. If that’s us, we may as well not go to the World Cup’. We’ve got nothing. That’s my starting point.”

Anyone who has ever sat in a shed as a player, or carried the coaching clipboard will tell you, that is a fair old tune-up.

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As the Wallabies prepare for their five-test tour of Europe the question is, what does success look like after the final whistle blows at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff Wales on the 27th of November after such as assessment?

If the barometer for success is simply a win/loss ratio, three or more wins should do it, according to Rugby Australia’s Andy Marinos. Well Andy, you and my fellow Wallaby fans should brace themselves for an unsuccessful tour as there is a distinct chance the Wallabies could return home winless.

Let that sink in. Winless.

Let’s be brutally honest – the Wallabies play under Dave Rennie has too often lacked the mindset, skillset and structure to seriously be considered the powerhouse in world rugby they aspire to be.

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Dave Rennie’s sides have not toured particularly well thus far. A winless northern tour at the end of 2021 and a single away victory against Argentina in this year’s Rugby Championship is evidence of such.

And now an understrength Wallabies look to take on the might of European rugby in their own backyard – a daunting challenge for Coach Rennie and his staff to say the least.

Dave Rennie’s Wallabies coaching career is safe until 2023 and so it should be. When appointed as national coach, Australian rugby was in a parlous state. In his tenure, the affable New Zealander has ensured that the Wallabies are largely a side void of off-field controversy, something a number of his predecessors have not enjoyed. A side that certainly appears to have discovered its soul, character and connection to Australia’s lands and its people.

Furthermore, he has provided an opportunity to once-errant stars as such his care and compassion for his side have paid dividends. It is understood he is well liked and respected by his team. As such his team has defeated sides such as the All Blacks, Springboks, English and French – all serious contenders for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

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All sounds good but such victories are coupled with some grotesque defeats along the way, where the Wallabies appeared to play well short of their ability or with a lack of awareness of what the privilege and responsibilities are that goes along with being a Wallaby.

His side at times has been embarrassing as they have been defeated more so by effort than skill or simply beaten up physically.

For Rennie to hush his detractors he must ensure that whatever the score lines may be at the end of this tour, how his side applies themselves speaks louder. There must be complete effort and dedication to not be second best in the confrontational aspects of the game. Any repeat of flaccid performances such as the Wallabies were in Brisbane against the English, or the Pumas in San Juan will only vindicate and embolden his detractors.

Australians by nature are not short on confidence and neither are the Wallabies. But overconfidence with a lack of reality only leads to a state of delusion. The Wallabies should not delude themselves that they currently possess the consistent mindset required to climb the top of the rugby tree. Perhaps this has been Dave Rennie’s greatest failure thus far, or perhaps I should re-phrase that as his greatest work on moving forward – mental toughness. Being mentally tougher than the opponent. Being the last man standing.

What frustrates me is that his side has shown, at times, they have what it takes. 14-man victories over France and England and a near victory of Wales in Cardiff are evidence his side can galvanize whilst under pressure and perform. Yet these are balanced out where inexplicably a mental malaise overcomes the Australians.

Assistant Laurie Fisher spoke of what he wants from this tour, “this tour is all about really, really developing our basics, valuing our basics and bedding all that down. Ground zero. We’re going to get that right and we’re going grow from there.”

Excellent. But identifying that the Wallabies need to get the basics right, itself is all but an admission that the basics in the Australian game were lacking or were not a required standard under the Rennie tenure before Fisher’s inclusion. Dave Rennie must own that.

There will be mistakes made on the tour by the Wallabies, but as long as the Wallabies play through them and play on, the Australians may yet discover the mindset required to climb rugby’s Everest.

With the inclusion of the no-nonsense straight-talking Fisher, Dave Rennie may have found the Lennon to his McCartney and together they may yet get the Wallabies into tune.

The Australian rugby public expects despite the adversity they face.

As John Lennon also said, “I’m an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I’ll bring you something out of it.”

As should Dave Rennie of these touring Wallabies. The answer is clear, “coach – give us something to be proud of and that is success enough for now.”

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