Rugby-Rennie era dawns with a clean slate for young Wallabies

Credit: REUTERS/MOLLY DARLINGTON

Dave Rennie finally got to conduct his first Wallabies training session on Tuesday and the new coach left at least a couple of his younger players confident that a new era was dawning for Australian rugby.

By Nick Mulvenney

SYDNEY, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Dave Rennie finally got to conduct his first Wallabies training session on Tuesday and the new coach left at least a couple of his younger players confident that a new era was dawning for Australian rugby.

The New Zealander was appointed last November but a combination of his own prior commitments and the COVID-19 pandemic conspired to limit him to small group meetings and Zoom calls with his players since.

Harry Wilson, one of 16 uncapped players in the 44-man squad Rennie named last week, said Rennie had been fully hands-on as he ran the squad through their paces on Tuesday at a camp in the Hunter Valley.

"I've really enjoyed him so far, he's been very positive," said the 20-year-old Queensland Reds number eight, who was named Super Rugby AU player of the year.

"He emphasised the need to get everything right every time. Just excited to continue learning from him going forward."

Rennie will start his reign with one of the toughest assignments in world rugby -- back-to-back Bledisloe Cup tests against the All Blacks in New Zealand on Oct. 11 and 18.

That means a sort of homecoming for centre Irae Simone, another uncapped player who earned his spot in the squad with some blistering performances for the Super Rugby AU champion ACT Brumbies.

Simone, a centre partner of New Zealand's Jack Goodhue at high school in Auckland, said he had been impressed with the type of rugby Rennie will be encouraging Australia to play.

"I'm liking the style he wants," the 25-year-old told reporters via Zoom.

"It's just quick footie ... and on the back of that we want to be physical."

Australia, currently ranked seventh in the world, have not held the Bledisloe Cup since 2002 and have won only two of 11 tests against the All Blacks since the 2015 World Cup final.

There have been better times for the twice world champions, however, and it was the glory days around the turn of the century that convinced Simone at a young age that he wanted to play for Australia not New Zealand.

"Back then the Wallabies were at their peak," he said. "Fair to say it's dropped down a few notches since but I'm in a group of players who are going to take it back up."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

((Nick.Mulvenney@tr.com; +61 2 9321 8190;))

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