Consistency is something that any successful rugby team must have. So the ongoing Wallabies’ first five issues have plagued the Dave Rennie era.
The latest crisis began when Quade Cooper got injured in the opening test of The Rugby Championship campaign. That was followed by the failure of James O’Connor to step into the starting role, and it played a part in a record loss to Argentina, 48-17. Not wholly to blame, yet consistent delivery of good front-foot ball was missing in big parts of the side’s loss.
Now, as the arrival of the Springboks adds pressure to the situation for the Australian rugby team, the selection of a reliable Wallabies first five has driven head coach Dave Rennie to add names who he will hope can stamp their class on the key role.
As well as those issues, Defence coach, Matt Taylor, has made the decision to step away from International Rugby for now, after more than a decade at the coalface of over 110 Tests as an assistant coach with Scotland, and Australia. This meant an SOS call was made and has now been filled by Laurie Fisher.
The ACT Brumbies mentor has joined the coaching ranks in an interim assistant role, for the 2022 Rugby Championship remaining fixtures against South Africa and New Zealand on home soil.
Ongoing Wallabies’ first five issues plus new Assistant Coach role filled
Bernard Foley (see above image) has replaced O’Connor in the latest squad, as Wallabies coach Dave Rennie searches for the best playmaking solution following Quade Cooper’s Achilles tear. His inclusion is seen in both a positive, but also in a negative way. He can hit the ground running more naturally than others. Mind you, the squad choices have not reinforced the roles of either Noah Lolesio or shown faith in other young flyhalf’s currently playing Super Rugby.
News that Ben Donaldson has just been brought into the Rugby Championship squad is good for his elevation from a solid NSW Waratahs season. However, men like Hamish Stewart (Force), Lawson Creighton (Reds), and Tane Edmed (Waratahs) still appear to not be shown a clear pathway towards a representative level.
Of course, the 32-year-old Foley has a fine resume; including the 2015 Rugby World Cup final, and his last two years in Japan have produced consistent displays that underline his recall. Yet if the third, fourth, and fifth men in line are to remain in contention to assume the Wallabies’ first five roles are not provided a sound formation at the International level, future Australian sides may still be struggling for a solution through 2023 and beyond.
🦘Your squad to take on the @Springboks is in!
— Wallabies (@wallabies) August 18, 2022
Rennie said: “After a tough two weeks in Argentina we’re extremely pleased to be able to welcome a few men back into the mob. To have their experience on deck will be invaluable in what’s going to be a massive challenge coming up against South Africa two weeks in a row.
“We know that respect is earned daily and we’ll be doing everything we can to ensure we put in performances that are worthy of that respect in Adelaide and Sydney.”
There is no doubt, that experience is worth its weight in the gold jersey. Yet some former players can see issues in the number 10 jersey for Australia. Berrick Barners was quoted by Fox Sports saying; “Sometimes you can put a kid in there and they’re not going to fear anything because what fear of failure have they got? They’ve never experienced it. But at the moment, you’re asking a kid to make a debut in and amongst a bunch of other kids and that’s really difficult.
“I think we’re pretty tough on our 10s here in Australia because unless they jump out of the skin straight away and they’re Quade Cooper or Kurtley Beale, we sort of discard them and that’s why we’ve got so many playing overseas right now at 24-25″.
Rennie has the support of the Rugby Australia board and his chief executive no doubt, yet the next segment of this calendar is extremely vital to the team’s ongoing fortunes. A confident Wallabies’ first five is the key to unlocking the backline. To do so, the forwards must lay the groundwork [rugby 101], and now; more than ever, a clinical assistant coach can assist in those objectives.
Laurie Fisher returns to the Australian coaching group
Laurie Fisher on joining the Wallabies group
Following a discussion with Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, assistant Matt Taylor felt the time was right for him to step away and commit his focus to some personal matters that he needs to prioritize at this point. Dave Rennie said in a Rugby Australia media statement: “Matt is a great man with a strong work ethic, who is well respected within the Wallabies environment and we will miss him.”
Taylor said himself: “While this was an extremely difficult decision, I know it’s the right one for me and my family at this point in time. I’m looking forward to spending more time with them and look forward to getting back into coaching when the time is right.”
This sees the return of Fisher, who has coached the Australian Universities and Under 21 sides. A respected rugby mind, his employment will bring a wealth of knowledge, plus his creativity and mindfulness of the modern game and the player’s needs. Similar to the introduction of Jason Ryan to the All Blacks, it is hoped that Fisher can influence the forwards to front up to the big Springbok challenge ahead.
New Wallabies assistant coach Fisher said: “I’m excited to join the coaching group at the Wallabies and would like to thank Dave for the opportunity. I’m looking forward to getting on the grass this week and contributing to the success of the group moving forward.”
Dave Rennie on having Laurie Fisher
The Boss is confident! 💪🦘
— Stan Sport Rugby (@StanSportRugby) August 18, 2022
Grateful for the inclusion of the experienced Fisher, Rennie stated that “(Laurie) brings a wealth of knowledge and experience which will only benefit our playing group ahead of what are going to be extremely tough test matches in the Rugby Championship.”
Note: regular Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper is still taking personal time away from the game, and even while supporting that player’s position, it adds to the internal pressures on selection and the challenge ahead of the group.
It will also be hoped that Fisher’s addition will bring that fresh voice needed in any underperforming group. Plus, he’ll support the role that Noah Lolesio will be required to play within the squad. While still young, his 12 tests can be the base to build consistent performances that will help develop the Brumbies playmaker into the pivotal Wallabies’ first five that many see him as.
Still, many others see the inclusion of Bernard Foley as a ‘security blanket’ call by Rennie. Whatever outcome these next four test matches have, Wallabies supporters will just hope that they see some consistency and more accuracy in the team’s displays, to look ahead to a brighter future in the gold jersey.
The team will assemble on the Gold Coast on Sunday ahead of their Test against the world champion Springboks in Adelaide on August 27. That Test is part of a doubleheader that will also see the Wallaroos taking on the Black Ferns women’s team.
“Main photo credit”
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