‘Won’t happen’: Rennie’s blunt reaction to working with Eddie, addresses future, Wisemantel exit and review

Dave Rennie hasn't shied away from all the speculation engulfing Australian rugby.

‘Won’t happen’: Rennie’s blunt reaction to working with Eddie, addresses future, Wisemantel exit and review

Amid boardroom rumblings, a review into 2022 and preparing for the future, Dave Rennie says his complete focus is on the World Cup.

The Wallabies’ World Cup preparations continued on Monday, as Rennie’s national team, including 44 of Australia’s best talent, gathered on the Gold Coast for the first training camp of the year.

After a fascinating festive period, which was dominated by Eddie Jones’ next move after being sacked in the weeks leading up to Christmas, focus turned sharply on the national team, Scott Wisemantel’s replacement, the potential of an independent selector and Rennie’s exit strategy, as the Wallabies gathered in south east Queensland.

The players’ return to the Wallabies came as Australia’s franchises continued their build-up to next month’s Super Rugby Pacific competition start.

It means Super Rugby franchises will have a little more than a month for players to familiarise themselves with the patterns of play before they return to the line of duty.

But unlike the sweet comfort of tackling each other, they will have to hit the ground running immediately with their trans-Tasman rivals to greet them from the outset unlike over the past two years.

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)

Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

More pressing was Rennie’s reaction to the revelation last week that Wisemantel, the team’s most experienced World Cup coach, had resigned less than nine months out from the World Cup.

Rennie said it was “hard to replace” Wisemantel, who offered more than training field tips with his role extending to the infectious energy he offers as well as being one of the side’s selectors.

“Yeah, massive disappointment. He’s a hell of a coach, and a great man,” Rennie said.

“It’s hard to replace that sort of experience but we understand he had to make a commitment to his family, and that’s the right decision for him. So yeah, disappointing, difficult to replace. But we’ll work through a process over the next few weeks.”

Rennie said that the Wallabies could look to within to replace the assistant coach, who was Jones’ assistant at the past two World Cup campaigns.

“It’s not easy to replace someone of Wisey’s quality because it’s not just his rugby knowledge. He brings massive energy, his ability to present is outstanding, he’s one of our selectors, so it’s hard to replace like with like, so it may end we end up shuffling the deck a little bit within the staff that we’ve got,” he said.

“We’ve obviously been going through this process the last three or so weeks. We’ve just got to make sure it fits.

Wallabies attack coach Scott Wisemantel speaks to Dave Rennie. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“What wouldn’t be good is bringing in someone who maybe wants to change everything that was built on. We want to tweak things, but we’ve got a group of guys who are starting to get an understanding of how we want to play and so we’ll be mindful that whoever we bring in can fit the mould really.”

Could that be Jones? No, according to Rennie.

The fourth-year Wallabies coach said that he didn’t expect Jones, who is anticipating having his future ironed out by the end of the month, to join Rugby Australia ahead of the World Cup, including as a director of rugby.

“It won’t happen before the World Cup,” Rennie said.

“Look, there’s a fair bit of speculation about a lot of other things, but my focus is with this group and on the World Cup and I guess anything else happening beyond that will be clarified over the next few months.

“We’ve had no discussions around that. There’s no plan to make any changes to the coaching group at this stage. And I haven’t spoken to [chairman] Hamish [McLennan] and I haven’t spoken to [chief executive] Andy [Marinos], so my assumption is that we’ll push on. What happens beyond ’23 is a different matter.”

Rennie is expected to head to Japan following the World Cup, with sources indicating he is set to join to Kobe for the 2024 season.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JULY 02: England coach Eddie Jones shakes hands with Nic White of the Wallabies during the warm-up before game one of the international test match series between the Australian Wallabies and England at Optus Stadium on July 02, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Eddie Jones shakes hands with Nic White. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

EXCLUSIVE: Rennie set for Japan job in 2024

While the New Zealand-born coach confirmed he had not signed with Kobe, he added his future would become clearer over the coming months.

“All I’ll say is I haven’t signed with Kobe,” he said. “And, as I said before, my focus is totally here. We’ve spent a big chunk of December back doing [the] review, doing World Cup planning.

“I got to play a little bit of golf at Sanctuary Cove, which was awesome, with one of my sons, who had come over for Christmas, and then we’ve been back into planning and detail again from last week, so that’s my focus. What happens beyond ‘23 will probably be a bit clearer in the next few months.”

Rennie said the review into the 2022 season, which saw an unprecedented number of injuries where 51 players were used throughout the year, had been completed but given the Rugby Australia board had yet to read it, he chose to keep its findings confidential.

The former Super Rugby-winning coach said there were a lot of “positive things” in the review and a “handful of recommendations” within it.

“There’s not a hell of a lot of surprises [in the review] from our perspective,” Rennie said.

“There’s a number of things that we knew. But good to get clarified and, look, some good recommendations, as I mentioned. But also highlighting things that the group is doing really well, which is important so that we can build confidence from heading into a massive year.”

Following the Wallabies’ historic loss to Italy, Rugby Australia sources had indicated they would strongly consider adding an independent selector into the mix.

It’s understood RA has considered several candidates but failed to get someone who has a strong understanding of the game and can commit to the workload of trawling through game after game.

It’s believed board members Phil Waugh and Daniel Herbert were asked whether they were interested, but neither ex-Wallaby was keen.

“We had an independent selector with Scott Johnson for the first couple of years, so it’s not something new to us,” Rennie said. “It’s just getting the right person.

“To be a selector, you need to watch a lot of footy, you need to understand what’s coming through the system and then, the benefit of Johnno was he’d come into camp, he’d watch of all training, and often guys will get opportunities based on how well they trained over the previous two or three week, so we’re working through that process.

“We’re not necessarily looking for an independent to come in and change things up and have a massive say around who we’re picking unless they’re in the mixer and they’ve got a clearer understanding of the quality of players coming through.”

(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Rennie said the Wallabies had taken over Taniela Tupou’s recovery.

The off-contract tight-head prop suffered a ruptured Achilles injury during the 13-10 loss to Ireland in November. The devastating injury has all but ruled Tupou out of this year’s Super Rugby campaign.

Rennie said the Wallabies were hopeful they could get some match time into throughout the course of year, adding the possibility of playing club rugby in Brisbane.

“He’s unlikely to play Super Rugby, so the plan is to try and find him some footy, leading into the Rugby Championship,” Rennie said.

“We’ll take over his recovery. He’ll still have a role to play at the Reds but not on the playing field.

“The first avenue [to return] is club rugby, which will excite Brothers, I’d imagine. And then Australia A, we plan on having a couple of games, potentially with them.

“We’re just looking for a chance to get some footy into him, so we’ll see how he progresses and hopefully he recovers a little bit quicker and gets the chance to play at the back end of Super.”