Tue. May 17th, 2022

Dave Rennie said he was still unsure if the Wallabies would have their three Japanese-based stars, including starting No. Quade Cooper, available for the opening game on the spring tour when he named a 37-man squad for the four tests on Friday.

Rennie has called up three European-based players – Will Skelton, Rory Arnold and Tolu Latu – and made a few other tough election calls around youngsters, including Noah Lolesio, Harry Wilson and Fraser McReight.

After announcing the squad for matches against Japan, Scotland, England and Wales, Rennie discussed the thinking behind the major calls, whether Kurtley Beale had entered into discussions and where Australia stands on the Giteau Act after the recent foreign calls.

Here’s everything he had to say at Friday’s press conference

On the recall of the three European-based players

“We’ve been talking to a number of guys for a long time about potentially coming home and their desire to play for the Wallabies again,” Rennie said.

“The situation with COVID and the desire to leave some guys at home to have a decent offseason and make changes in their games has naturally created an opportunity to take advantage of some of these guys.

“I was really disappointed that Rory Arnold had already committed to leave Australia after the World Cup.

“Of course he has gained more experience over there, but still has a strong desire to play for the Wallabies, so I have been in constant contact with him, even when I was in Scotland.

“Will, I’ve talked a lot too. I trained a bit against him when he was in Saracens and I was in Glasgow. He has since been on his way to La Rochelle and is very keen to play for the Wallabies again.

(Photo by Dan Mullan / Getty Images)

“And also with Tolu, which trades in France. All of these guys had an understanding that there could be an opportunity. It’s great for us, it’s a great experience, it’s going to be good for our young group and great to have these guys back in the mix. ”

Skelton last played for the Wallabies in 2016, with Arnold and Latu leaving after the 2019 World Cup.

“In Will’s case, he could have thought his chance to play international football was gone,” Rennie said.

“Everyone was really positive and wanted to jump at the chance. They’ve talked to guys out here, they have an understanding of what we’re all about and what we’re trying to do, and they’m eager to be a part of it. ”

Rennie was asked if Arnold was another world-class rower, and the coach made it clear that he rates the 31-year-old as someone who escaped.

“I want to say yes. I think he was one of the biggest losses and it was obviously really disappointing to see from afar, ”said Rennie. “It was too far down the track [to talk him out of a move].

“He had already committed to Toulouse and therefore there was no way to back it up. He has been unique to Toulouse, they won the European and French competition last year. He’s had a big hand in that.

“Will has really leaned down – Saracens did a great job with him. They’ve probably used him more in the last few years as a guy from the bench who would come with 30 to go and he was devastating.

“La Rochelle was second in both competitions last season and Will was considered the best player in Europe. So that tells you what influence he has over there. ”

Rennie said none of the three could be available for the Tour’s second Test against Scotland because that means they are coming too late to camp because of the international window.

“Even though we have been in the UK for two weeks before the Scottish game, the chances are high that the guys will not be with us until Sunday night after they have played,” said Rennie. “They do a little homework. The key is that they need to be really well-conditioned. We make a decision about how they form when they enter. But certainly we will not use all three of these guys against Scotland. ”

Rennie was asked if Beale had gone into the selection equation, and he played a straight bat, while revealing that he would play Jordan Petaia at fullback for the barbarians, after the Wallabies tests were over – effectively training him in a test environment without doing so for Australia.

“We’re constantly talking about players who are abroad,” Rennie said.

“We are still trying to promote from within. We think [Reece Hodge] can do a job for us [at No.15].

“We have Andrew Kellaway who has played a little bit 15 and trained a lot like 15 for us. We want to see Jordie play many 15 at Super level before we consider him at his level and the plan is from a barbaric point of view, Jordie will be and play No. 15 in that game. ”

Andrew Kellaway.  (Photo by Getty Images)

Andrew Kellaway. (Photo by Getty Images)

About the situation with Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete in Japan

Although Kerevi is still a fitness doubter for the Japan test, there is another problem that the Wallabies face as their Japanese clubs are not required to release them for the game as it is outside the international window.

“We try to create a strong relationship with the Japanese clubs, because while we can seize them from a regulatory point of view. [for later games], they are the primary employer at the moment and although they have been very supportive, they also have their own programs to focus on and they will also be successful and will have their best players available.

“It’s important that we establish a good relationship there.”

On the men he left behind

Rennie outlined the reasons for some of the major omissions from the tournament party, where several youngsters left home to work on their skills ahead of the Super Rugby season.

“Harry [Wilson] has not played test match footy in the last month and he is desperate to play at this level, ”said Rennie.

“Staying at home will give him an opportunity to make changes physically and in his game, which will give him the opportunity to excel at this level. He’s really mature around it.

“With Noah [Lolesio], he needs to apply a little bit of muscle mass and deal with the physical nature of having to defend himself at 10.

“He wants to work on becoming more explosive and accelerating, trying to get more distance in his kicking game, and that’s going to give him time to do that.

“They are both good young men who we think have a great future in their gold jersey and it is a chance for them to make some changes.”

Brumbies hooker Connal McInerney made the cut, but there was no room for Lachie Lonergan.

“I rate Lachie Lonergan really highly. He is a little light at the moment-he is about 103-104 kilos though.

“We think he has a real difference in his game, throws well, really needs to embrace scrummaging and wear a certain size and a little neck strength, and a decent offseason will allow him that.

“He is good enough to tour, but we still think this is the best in the long run.

“There have been a number of hookers who have been out, long-term injury, and Connols has been in our mix before and we like him. He’s old school. A very good deadlock will be very important in the UK so it is a chance for him to come out in front of us again and show that he is capable of playing at this level. ”

There was also no place for Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, who showed up early in the domestic campaign before taking home the birth of his child.

“You step aside and you give other guys opportunities and they grab them,” Rennie said from the unfavorable lock.

“Luhkan went home after the birth of his daughter and when we were in Sydney we could not get him back and the other guys have played really well. And we just need some experience from abroad.

“We have talked a lot with Luhkan about the influence he has with or without the ball – body heights and tackle pure carrying capacity and his ability to create, and it will be an opportunity for him to make some real changes in relation to it.

“We need him more powerful from a leg point of view, and a decent offseason will allow him to do that, and he has not had one of them recently. He’s not out of the picture. We think it’s a great opportunity for him and it will be great to see how he reacts. ”

On the return of Izaia Perese and Hunter Paisami

The call to Perese is interesting, considering the survivors to work out with fitness or skills. He has only just returned to action from a shoulder reconstruction. Paisami was a regular early in the campaign, but fell into the pick order after also leaving the birth of her child.

“He’s been in touch again the last few weeks and he’s ticked every box,” Rennie said. “He has not played a lot of footy, so we have a lot of work to get hold of him, and whether he is ready in 10 days to play Test footy is questionable.

“Hunter is a very good player, but like Luhkan, a few other guys really grabbed their opportunities and he gets a chance to remind us of what he’s capable of.”

Fraser McReight remains a victim of his position, a No. 7 specialist behind Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper.

“He has clarity about the shifts he has to make in his game,” Rennie said.

“If he can speed up his game in the next period, as he has done over the last 12 months, he is going to put a lot of pressure on Hoops.

“The fact that Hoops is a special seven, and the same goes for Fraser, that we lack a lack of flexibility if they are both in the same team. We have done this a few times, but it is crucial for us to have someone who can come from the bench or someone in the group who can cover all three positions. ”


On the current status of the Giteau Act

“The Giteau law, there is nothing based on concrete at this point,” Rennie admitted.

“The preference is still to choose from here, and my thinking has not changed about it. I think it’s important that we promote from within.

“Some of these guys come in and get a taste of the environment in the culture, hopefully it encourages them to come back and play here.

“Some have existing contracts that will carry them through to next year and then some of them right up to the World Cup.

“But we try to get as many homes as possible to increase the quality of our Super-teams to help from an experiential point of view with all the young men who come through and who will ultimately benefit us.”


On Louis Lynagh is summoned to England

Rennie had a small grave on England coach Eddie Jones when he discussed the son of Wallaby big Michael Lynagh, whom Jones recently called into the English squad.

“I did not speak [Louis]. [Director of Rugby] Scott Johnson has certainly spoken to Michael. Eddie was well aware of his lineage and caught him quickly.

“We’ll see how it goes there – whether they use them or not over the next period, and whether there is any interest in him returning to Australia.” So Rennie does not think he is English yet? “Not until he’s closed,” he replied crookedly.

On Scott Johnson on tour with the troupe

“He’s really good to have in the group,” Rennie said. “He participates in all training sessions, he sees all recordings.

“When we discuss players and training and what is going on, he has a very good eye. It is clear that he has coached a lot.

“He’s a bit of a devil’s lawyer type, where we might be thinking along a certain line, and he wants to challenge that mindset. We have really good discussions.

“His contribution to the group is excellent, and at the same time he does not exaggerate it. He is not trying to tell us how to train and how to play. His experience is invaluable and truly appreciated.


About Tolu Latu’s behavioral standards after previous problems

“With all these guys, we spend a lot of time having a conversation,” Rennie said.

“Tolu is a little different, his is via WhatsApp and Zooms. Other guys like Quade, we’ve had a chance to sit down over coffee and have a decent talk about expectations and where things are.

“We’ve always had some guys who, as younger men, made some bad decisions. They have made shifts around it and I would judge guys on how they behave in our environment as opposed to what other people tell me about them.

“When James came back and with Quade came back, they have been excellent, made massive contributions to the group, and we expect the same from Tolu.”

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