Wallabies coach addresses Eddie Jones speculation
SPOTLIGHT: Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has poured cold water on the prospect of a World Cup union with Eddie Jones, while revealing his messages to two key squad omissions.
A 44-man Australian cast has assembled on the Gold Coast for a four-day camp to begin preparations for this year’s showpiece in France.
Rennie spoke to media on Monday for the first time since former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones was sacked by England last month.
Rugby Australia bosses have contacted Jones about returning to the organisation in some capacity.
But Rennie said he hadn’t spoken to RA’s top brass about a role for Jones in France.
“It won’t happen before [the World Cup],” Rennie said.
“There’s a fair bit of speculation about a lot of things but my focus is on this group and the World Cup.
“We’ve had no discussions around that. There’s no plan to make alterations to the coaching group at this stage.
“My assumption is we’re going to push on. What happens beyond 2023 is a different matter.”
Rennie, who is also off contract after this year, added he hadn’t signed a deal to coach in Japan.
The Wallabies coach left both James O’Connor and Suliasi Vunivalu out of his 44-man squad for the World Cup, to be held in September-October, with the pair becoming casualties of a five-nine international season that heaped pressure on the coach.
The Queensland Reds’ NRL recruit Vunivalu played only the final minutes of his sole Test before falling out of favour and eventually being leapfrogged by Waratahs flyer Mark Nawaqanitawase.
O’Connor was dumped after a horror loss to Argentina, with Ben Donaldson emerging alongside Noah Lolesio as Australia-based options vying with Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley to pilot the side from the halves in France.
Both are still live hopes of featuring in France though, with another squad to gather after the Super Rugby season has commenced.
“I had a good chat to Rabs last week prior to us announcing the team,” Rennie said of O’Connor.
“He’s come back from an [ankle] injury. He’s back training fully now and he’s actually in good nick.
“He’s running a little bit quicker than we’ve seen over the last couple of years and looks sharper. His focus is playing good Super Rugby and putting a bit of pressure on us to select him for the camp in April.
“Suli has got really clear messages – we need to see him run fast.
“We need to see a repeat of speed efforts; we know his ability aerially is excellent. He needs to put in good performances at Super level.”
Rennie also hoped game-changing prop Taniela Tupou would have some game time, either at club level or with Australia ‘A’, before the World Cup should his achilles injury rub him out of the Super Rugby season as expected.