As the saying goes, a postman doesn’t celebrate when he delivers the post. That’s their job, that’s what they’re expected to do, and anything less is a problem.
If someone doesn’t receive their parcel in three to five business days, then that very same postman will begin to drown in a sea of complaints and scrutiny.
Expectation and performance define everyone in the work force; praise can at times be rare or hard to come by, while criticism becomes louder and louder with any failures.
International rugby is no different.
In fact, the unforgiving nature of professional sport rarely allows for any external noise or reasoning. Rugby is a results driven game; there’s no time for excuses or finger pointing.
It only feels like yesterday that the Autumn Nations Series drew to an intriguing conclusion as Dave Rennie’s Wallabies staged an incredible comeback win over Wales, and South Africa dominated England.
In the three and a half weeks since these international blockbusters, both the Welsh Rugby Union and RFU made stunning coaching decisions nine months out from the Rugby World Cup.
Legendary coach Warren Gatland was confirmed as Wayne Pivac’s replacement at Wales, following their disastrous season which included a loss against minnows Georgia in Cardiff.
But the RFU made the jaw-dropping announcement to ax World Cup specialist Eddie Jones about a day later, following England’s abysmal campaign which saw them win just five matches in 2022.
While Pivac simply seemed lost, Jones couldn’t prove his innocence no matter how much he tried.
It’s a results driven game, rugby.
Under fire coach Rennie and the All Blacks’ Ian Foster weren’t dealing the same fate as their Northern Hemisphere counterparts, but the pressure is still on them both.
Wallabies coach Rennie, who has won less than 40 percent of his Tests with Australia, is reportedly “looking at potential options elsewhere” for after next year’s World Cup.
Free agent Jones is expected to return to Australian shores in some capacity, and following a shocking campaign, Rugby Australia may be intrigued by the radical shakeup.
Australia started their season with a thrilling win over rivals England in Perth, before losing six of their next eight Test matches.
Their end-of-season tour to Europe wasn’t much better.
The Wallabies probably should’ve lost to Scotland at Murrayfield, before losing their next three matches by three points or less – including a first-ever loss to Italy.
While an incredible comeback win over Wales saw the men in gold avoid their worst season since 1958, change is needed.
But not the change that some may think.
Dave Rennie could potentially become the best thing to happen to Australian rugby in 20 years, and could rightly be hailed as a hero if things can fall the Wallabies’ way next year.
The Wallabies had an awful year on paper, but two major factors plagued their season – and it wasn’t Rennie’s influence.
Discipline was an obvious concern for the men in gold throughout their entire season, as they became the most penalized Tier One nation in the world.
Their poor discipline cost them in some key games, including a thriller against the All Blacks in Melbourne, which would’ve relieved some pressure on both Rennie and the playing group if they had gotten it right.
While the coach does need to take some ownership for these issues, so do the playing group.
The Wallabies are the best of the best in Australia; they’re professional rugby players who have devoted their lives to the sport they love.
They know what they’re doing out there on the field, so the onus has to be on them to change their ways.
It doesn’t make winning any easier if they don’t.
International rugby is hard enough – it’s never been this competitive – but the sport becomes that much tougher when you’re having to select third string options in several positions.
Throughout the year that was, it became impossible for an injury-ravaged Australian side to select their best players, and to develop any momentum in terms of selections ahead of the World Cup.
More than 50 players donned Wallaby gold throughout a difficult season, and there were some familiar faces from yesteryear who didn’t play at all through injury.
While more players were able to realize their childhood dream of playing Test rugby in the coveted gold jersey, it was clear that some players weren’t quite up to that standard yet.
Five different players started Test matches in the No. 10 jersey for Australia, including chief point guard Quade Cooper who only played one Test this year due to injury.
World class center Samu Kerevi only played three matches this year, and couldn’t continue to build his combination with rising star Len Ikitau – a partnership which could become the modern day Nonu-Smith.
Injuries added more chaos to the Wallabies’ intense selection headaches, and the coach can only make the best of what he’s got.
While there’s been some discussion around why these injuries are happening, and if Rennie is to blame, it’s an impossible criticism to pin on one person.
Injuries are part of sport, although not usually like this.
If the Wallabies can have some luck go their way in 2023, and have their key players available for selection, then there’s no reason why they can’t do something special in France.
With Cooper and Kerevi back in Wallaby gold, Australia could have one of the best backlines in Test rugby – and their forward pack is on the rise too.
Having coached the Chiefs to Super Rugby glory, and after a successful spell Glasgow Warriors, the New Zealand-born coach has proven himself wherever he’s gone.
There’s a reason why, even after the year the Wallabies had, that kiwis would still love to see Rennie return to Aotearoa to lead the All Blacks following Foster’s reign.
Rennie is a strategic genius with plenty of potential, and all of the Wallabies’ issues cannot be pinned on him.
If the Wallabies were to part ways with Rennie, even after the World Cup, they’d be making an irreversible mistake.
Rennie isn’t the problem.
The super coach is delivering the post, it’s just up to everyone else in the Wallabies’ setup to do their part by opening the door to collect his gifts.