Incoming Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has urged Australian rugby union’s warring factions to stop airing their differences in public.
The New Zealander — who recently ended his four-year spell as coach of Glasgow Warriors — replaces Michael Cheika, who left after Australia were beaten in last year’s Rugby World Cup quarter-finals by eventual runners-up England.
Much has changed since the 56-year-old Rennie accepted the job, with Rugby Australia (RA) chief executive Raelene Castle having resigned in April amid accusations that the first woman to hold the post had been bullied by “dark forces” on social media.
And last week saw RA tear up the contract of Wallaby lock Izack Rodda after he refused to accept a coronavirus enforced pay-cut
The COVID-19 shutdown has added to the financial strains on RA, which was already struggling after reaching a multi-million dollar settlement with star try-scorer Israel Folau over his sacking for homophobic comments.
RA reported a provisional Aus$9.4 million ($6 million) operating deficit last year and has laid off 75 percent of staff to cut costs during the virus emergency, with former Australia captain Nick Farr-Jones among those openly critical of the governing body.
“Things have been a bit messy and that’s putting it mildly,” Rennie said in a video conference call from his home in Glasgow on Friday.
“An enormous amount of stuff has come out in the press and that’s one thing I’d like to stop,” the 56-year-old added. “A lot of discussions need to happen behind closed doors.”
Rennie could not hide his disappointment at the departure of Castle but said he had no intention of walking away from the Wallabies.
“Raelene is an impressive person, she is tough but has been bullied the last couple of years which is really disappointing,” said Rennie.
“I am disappointed I won’t get the chance to work with her but I am committed, I signed a deal and intend to see it through.”
Despite the turmoil Rennie, who guided New Zealand to three successive Under-20 world titles, insisted: “There are lots of good things happening in Australian rugby.
“The Super Rugby coaches have given us a lot of access to the players and we’ve done a lot of work with those guys,” added Rennie, who twice took the Waikato Chiefs to the elite southern hemisphere club title.
“Personally I’m in a better place than I would have been if we (Glasgow) had been playing PRO14, so if there are any positives from the pause to the season it would be that,” added Rennie, who oversaw the Warriors’ run to last year’s final.
“I’m a lot clearer on the players and where they’re at and what we need to do.”
“We are ranked seventh in the world and need to be better than that.
“A lot of experienced players have gone post World Cup and now we must identify some guys who will be Wallabies for years to come.”
– ‘Good brand of footie’ – AFP / CHRISTOPHE SIMON Dave Rennie says to regain popularity among the young who are opting for football rugby league and Aussie Rules the Wallabies need to play an attractive brand of rugby
Rennie acknowledged Australian rugby’s popularity had declined in the face of fierce local competition from rival sports but added the solution lay in playing an entertaining game.
“In Australia we are ranked behind football, rugby league and Aussie Rules,” he said.
“We have got to have a brand that is attractive to kids coming out of school and that is basically the Wallabies playing a really good brand of footie.” AFP / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU Dave Rennie says he would like to talk to his predecessor as Australia coach Michael Cheika as he beds himself into the job
Meanwhile, the former teacher said he would try to talk with Cheika, Australia’s coach when they were beaten in the 2015 World Cup final by New Zealand.
“I don’t know if any other coach has won both the Super Rugby title (Waratahs 2014) and the European Cup (Leinster 2009) so he is in a special group on his own,” said Rennie of Cheika.
“He is very experienced and I am keen to catch up with him and have a conversation. I will look at what has worked and what has not and what we need to change.”