‘Results-driven business’: Bosses back Rennie but want spring tour success

Rugby Australia boss Andy Marinos says a pass mark for the Wallabies on the five-game spring tour will be three or more victories, but re-affirmed coach Dave Rennie as safe through to the 2023 World Cup.

A decision about Rennie’s future with the Wallabies beyond 2023, however, will not be rushed and will rest on “results” at the World Cup and the nine Tests beforehand, the chief executive said.

The Wallabies flew out for France on Wednesday for a five-week tour where they’ll face Scotland, France, Italy, Ireland and Wales. Where once Australia would have been expected to win a majority of the Tests, northern tours have produced increasingly poor returns, with only six wins in the Wallabies’ last 18 Tests in Europe.

A poor tour could escalate pressure on Rennie, who has overseen a 3-6 record so far this year and has a 38 per cent win record overall as Wallabies coach. RA chairman Hamish McLennan publicly backed Rennie to coach through to the World Cup befgore the Wallabies’ narrow loss to New Zealand in Melbourne in September and Marinos said on Thursday that is “still our position”.

But asked if a poor spring tour could change RA’s position, Marinos said: “That is something we will just have to assess, if that was to happen. But we certainly believe Dave has what it takes to take us through to the World Cup and he is building something with this young group of players. Again, the big thing is just about getting consistency with this young group of players.”

Quizzed about what he judged as pass mark for Rennie and the Wallabies on tour, Marinos said: “I haven’t had that specific conversation with Dave just yet but we want to come away with more wins than losses, I’d say.”

Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos.Credit:Getty

Currently, there is no real mood among Rugby Australia’s board to change coaches on the eve of a World Cup year, and given the huge injury toll in 2022 – and the occasional flashes of excellence in a mostly inconsistent season – there remains a belief a full-strength Rennie-coached team, aided by a friendly draw, can still make an impact at the World Cup.

A disappointing season is not the only element raising the stakes of spring tour results. Rennie discussed his long-term future last week by revealing he is unwilling to wait until after the World Cup to sort his coaching future, and plans to decide “early next year” about where he’ll be in 2024.

Rennie’s preference is to stay in Australia but that timeframe doesn’t marry up with RA’s plan to wait and see how the Wallabies perform at the World Cup.

Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos, Australian sevens players Henry Hutchison and Dom Du Toit, and Chris Nay, CEO Wheelchair Rugby Australia, at the announcement of ISPS Handa as a sponsor.Credit:Getty

“Our position it is a results-driven business, so we obviously have to get the results on the field and get that consistency of performance. Dave is pretty clear, from our side, on what the expectations are going forward,” Marinos said.

“It is very typical, going into a World Cup year. He is one of many coaches who have a contract ending at the end of the year. We are going to be sensible about engaging and what next year, leading into the World Cup, looks like. It’s about getting the results and we have internationals before we get to the World Cup, where we can have another assessment. We just have to be pretty fluid.”

Rennie has strong support among the Wallabies players, with halfback Nic White saying the Kiwi coach was doing “a phenomenal job” and was among the best he’d worked with.

“He drives high standards and as a group we haven’t met them,” White told 2GB radio.

“I’ve said this for a while now, we’ve had a really young squad for the last couple of years and I’ve kind of felt that the coaches have been operating I guess above the level of where we players have been playing catch-up.”

Meanwhile, Wallaroos coach Jay Tregonning has reshuffled his forward pack to take on Wales in the final World Cup pool game on Saturday in Whangerei.

Bridie O’Gorman has returned in the front row for Eva Karpani, with Brumbies skipper Michaela Leonard starting at lock to bolster the lineout. Her Brumbies teammate and hooker Tania Naden will make her debut from the bench, replacing the suspended Ashley Marsters.

The Wallaroos’ win over Scotland has all but locked in a spot in the play-offs but a win would be the best chance of avoiding big guns such as New Zealand and England in the first knockout clash. A loss to Wales could potentially see them miss a play-off spot, but only if Scotland also beat the Kiwis, or Fiji beat France.

Tregonning said the thrilling win over Scotland had been a huge confidence boost.

“Coming from behind, grinding out the win, Lori ([Cramer] kicking a few goals under pressure – it was all outstanding and that’s great for everyone’s confidence,” he said.

“We’ve shown that we can do it and hopefully it’s not that close for my health this weekend but if it is we have confidence in the girls to be able to bring it home.”

In other news, the champion Australian men’s and women’s sevens teams have a stand-alone major sponsor for the first time, with ISPS Handa now a jersey sponsor for both teams. The men begin their new season and world series title defence in Hong Kong on November 4.

“It’s due recognition. They’ve both had phenomenal seasons, breakout seasons, this year and [the lack of a major sponsor] has always been a bit of a head scratcher for me, to be honest. It is truly global exposure, they travel the globe,” Marinos said.

Watch all the action from the Women’s Rugby World Cup from New Zealand with every match streaming ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport. Continues this Saturday with Australia v Wales (11.45am AEDT)

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