Wallabies coach Dave Rennie wants to increase to Giteau Law selections for Rugby World Cup

CARDIFF – Dave Rennie says his focus is on ensuring the Wallabies make a late run at next year’s World Cup and not on his long-term future.

In a wide-ranging press conference ahead of the Wallabies’ final Test of the year, Rennie also confirmed Taniela Tupou had ruptured his Achilles but spoke optimistically of the giant prop returning in time for the World Cup. He added it was vital the Wallabies get to the bottom of their wretched injury run and backed his entire coaching team to continue through to the tournament.

To begin with, the third-year international coach, who put it out in the media before the Spring Tour that he wanted an answer on his future beyond next year’s tournament in France, will go cap in hand to Rugby Australia and ask for an increase to the Overseas Selection Criteria Policy.

After loosening their overseas eligibility selection policy earlier in the year, Rennie wants an increase to the three players currently allowed to be chosen for Test duty.

Rugby Australia has been reluctant to open up selection completely for fear that it would only add to the player drain overseas and weaken their home Super Rugby product.

There are fears in certain sections of RA who also believe the nation’s overall cohesion could worsen, perhaps not immediately but over time, by widening the selection pool.

Rennie called up European-based players Kurtley Beale, Tolu Latu, Will Skelton and Rory Arnold on the 2021 Spring Tour, but the New Zealand coach only called up two foreign-based players – Skelton and Bernard Foley – for this year’s tour.

During the Rugby Championship, Rennie selected Arnold, Quade Cooper, Foley and Marika Koroibete, but only ever had two foreign-based Wallabies in his side at any one point.

While Rennie said no decision had been made on an exact number of foreign-based players he will be able to include in next year’s World Cup squad, it’s understood he will push for up to six picks to give him some insurance should influential players be ruled out through injury.

He will meet with the high-performance committee, including CEO Andy Marinos and former Wallabies and board members Daniel Herbert and Phil Waugh, following the tour and push for a one-off increase to the overseas eligibility policy.

“We’ve got to sit down with the board and have a chat around their views on it,” Rennie told reporters.

“We’ll sell a case as to what we think is best for the team and best for the country, and we’ll settle on something in the new year.”

Rennie emphasized that the Wallabies had attempted to focus on Australian-based players this year but said if a spate of injuries occurred, and only three overseas players were allowed to be selected, it could have wider ramifications for the three original picks.

Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie looks on ahead of The Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australia Wallabies at Eden Park on September 24, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand.  (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

“We’ve made a real effort to pick from home, so we haven’t had massive overseas influence this year,” he said.

“We were allowed three on this tour; we’ve only had two. We had less than that in The Rugby Championship when Quade got injured.

“We’ve really to try and develop guys at home. But to have a little bit of insurance around if we have injuries and get put under pressure in certain positions, we don’t necessarily want it to hamstring us in other spots.”

The extraordinary number of injuries will also be high on the agenda for Rennie’s post-tour meeting.

Six players, including Tupou, were injured during the Wallabies’ 13-10 defeat to Ireland last weekend. Only 25 layers were available as he named a 23 to play Wales this weekend.

Making matters worse, Rennie confirmed Tupou will be out for at least seven months after rupturing his Achilles – he is the fourth Wallaby in less than six months to suffer the injury.

Rennie said there was “nothing obvious” around the spate of injuries but said they will have a “decent review [to get] clarity around it”.

“With the amount of injuries we have, we’ll have a good look into what’s caused some of those, and some of them are bad luck and others, if it’s something we’re doing in our program then we need to adjust.”

The Wallabies must beat Wales on Saturday (Sunday AEDT) to avoid becoming the first Australian side to lose 10 Tests in a year.

Despite the dire results Rennie backed his coaching team and said they were making strong inroads ahead of next year.

“I wouldn’t change what we’re doing from a coaching perspective,” he said.

“I think that we’ve got high quality people. I think if you spoke to the players there would be an enormous amount of support for the coaching group, and our medics and our S&C, so I don’t envisage any changes.

“If you look at wins and losses, it’d be a poor season. We’ve had a lot of tight games and games we should have won. We’ve got to look at that and be able to turn pressure into points at key moments. This tour has been a classic example of that.

“I definitely think we’re a better side. We’ve got a lot of firepower to come back in. There will be genuine competition for places. I have no doubt we can put together a really strong side and build on what we’ve done.

“We can certainly take belief out of the last few weeks. The performance in Dublin, the performance in Paris against really strong sides … we win a couple of key moments, we win a couple of Tests at tough venues. We’ll take confidence out of that but knowing we need to be better.”

Despite believing the Wallabies were on the right track, Rennie added that he was in no rush to settle his future.

“No, I don’t think any commitment could be made beyond that (the World Cup) anyway,” he said. “So I’m not in a hurry around that.

“The focus is on our group, planning for the World Cup, and just making sure that when we head away, we’ve done everything we can to give us the best chance of having a successful tournament.”

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