Wallabies legend slams Rugby Australia and Rennie after Florence nightmare
REACTION: Fed-up former World Cup captain Stirling Mortlock says Rugby Australia must draw a line in the sand after the Wallabies’ “train wreck” loss to Italy and immediately address the national side’s “systemic” discipline issues once and for all.
Adamant Australia has “no chance” of winning next year’s World Cup in France, Mortlock believes embattled coach Dave Rennie must “pick and stick” to at least give Wallabies fans hope for the 2027 edition of the global showpiece.
“There is no way that we are going to win the World Cup next year. We are NO chance of doing that,” Mortlock told AAP in a no-holds-barred interview on Sunday.
“What needs to happen is the coaching staff and the leadership group of Rugby Australia must get the foundations right to build into winning the World Cup in 2027.”
That starts at the selection table and, most importantly, stamping out the horrendous lack of discipline that is dogging the Wallabies week in, week out.
Australia are officially the most penalised tier-one team in international rugby and infringed 16 more times in Saturday’s 27-28 infamous first-ever loss to Italy in Florence.
Scrumhalf Jake Gordon was also yellow carded for an unnecessary off-the-ball tackle, enabling the Azzurri to pile on two tries and 14 points while Australia were a man down for 10 minutes.
But that didn’t stop first-time skipper Allan Alaalatoa from saying he was “proud” of the Wallabies.
After famously apologising for Australia’s 2007 World Cup loss to England in Marseille, Mortlock – like thousands of other frustrated Wallabies fans – is tired of the message not getting through to Australia’s ill-disciplined Test stars.
“Stuff like this, this has been going on for probably 10 to 15 years,” said Mortlock, also a Bledisloe Cup hero from the way-back-when era of Australia dominating world rugby 20 years ago.
“I need to have a look at the data and stats but we’ve gone from being a very, very disciplined team globally to being one of the worst.
“It’s systemic so captains are getting penalised. Senior players are getting penalised, young players are getting penalised.
“It’s an extension of this lack of cohesion-slash-not sticking with combinations and chopping and changing all the time. It’s been a dog’s breakfast.”
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Mortlock accepts it’s a “delicate balance” for Rennie, who needs to blood youth while easing the workload of senior players on spring tours.
But he also believes the Wallabies jumper needs to be respected, noting that Rennie made a dozen changes to his starting side from last week’s loss to France and fielded eight players with less than 10 Tests each under their belts.
“The reality is I don’t see this result against Italy in isolation. It’s not a blip,” Mortlock said.
“It was a train wreck.
“It starts and finishes with the coaching staff and then that is implemented by the leadership group.
“And if it’s getting worse it’s because they’re not addressing it or not consistently addressing it and reinforcing it.
“At the end of the day, if people want to keep on doing it, they just don’t get picked.
“There’s no way you get inroads if you don’t address it.”