England face 'too many hurdles' to win World Cup
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Dave Rennie has garnished quite the CV in club rugby, he instilled an attractive brand of rugby at the Chiefs, leading them to Super Rugby titles in 2012 and 2013.
A move to the Northern Hemisphere to Glasgow Warriors in 2017 has also been relatively successful, helping them to a Pro14 semifinal, while their Champions Cup campaign was a forgettable experience with just a single win.
Amidst his debut season with the Warriors, he was strongly linked to the Wales job which is to be vacated by Warren Gatland after the 2019 World Cup, but was it a distraction?
“No. It’s small talk around media and speculation and I suppose I was fending it off more than anything else. As I said at the time I am really happy where I am, it has been a really good change for me coming from New Zealand, get to work with really good men, so enjoying it and hopefully trying to press on this year.”
Rennie’s countryman Wayne Pivac would eventually land the Welsh role, but with several other high profile international coaches having their contracts come to an end in 2019 – including Joe Schmidt with Ireland and Steve Hansen with the All Blacks – and the inevitable turnover post-World Cup, would he be interested in trying his hand at international level in future.
“I think so. I enjoy the day-to-day coaching and maybe the frustration from an international point of view is that you get a small block and you are pretty reliant on the clubs that the players come from doing a good job, around developing skillsets, doing the conditioning and so on. I really enjoy being on the grass coaching, hence the reason I am still doing it.”
Rennie has kept a keen eye on the Rugby Championship and he told RugbyPass that the All Blacks defeat to the Springboks may not be such a bad thing.
“Perfect timing. I think the All Blacks have traditionally been the best side in the world for three years and then got tipped up in a World Cup. I think this time a year out from the World Cup last time they got tipped over as well and it’s just a good reminder for them. They won’t be too upset by it, but they’ll know they’ll have to be at their best each week and if you are a couple of colts off you can get rolled. So, good timing I reckon.”
“Obviously they backed themselves to score didn’t they and whether they regret that decision I am not sure. There is no guarantees that you are going to put it between the posts, but 2007 they learned some lessons around those opportunities and I guess that younger breed may not have seen that game.
“They have got a very smart coaching group, they have a lot of high-quality players, I am sure they have learned a few things from that game.”
One team who have designs on challenging New Zealand for World Cup honours in Japan is England. They’ve just recruited John Mitchell, who believes his new employers can “be the best within a year’s time”, but Rennie feels that there are too many hurdles for England to face.
“I think the edge that the All Blacks probably have on most teams is that they have five Super Rugby sides that are all well conditioned and play a very similar brand of rugby and the All Blacks get to pick the cream of the crop out of that.
“With the fact that English sides have private ownership and so on, maybe the focus isn’t initially on the national side. Their challenge is to pick the best out of that group, working really closely to get the best out of the players and taking them to the World Cup. Yeah there are some challenges there for them.”
There have also been questions over Mitchell’s temperament, with a disruptive reputation from previous roles, but Rennie feels England have recruited well.
“He is a very, very experienced coach, he has coached pretty much in every continent in the world, I think he’ll bring that experience.
“He has got a hard edge about him, obviously with Eddie very experienced as well. They have some amazing players in England, so he’ll add to that.”
“My association with Mitch is over a beer, we have some mutual friends. Look he’s a lover of the game, very analytical. My association with him is social and he comes across as a very good man.”
“I am not sure of the role that Eddie has for him. There has been talk about him taking on the defence role, but he has a lot of skills in a lot of other areas, different roles, whether with the All Blacks, obviously assistant coach with England in the past and a lot of different Super Rugby sides, so whether he will have a bit of involvement around post-tackle and so on, I am not sure. Very experienced and I think he is smart enough to utilise the knowledge of the players in the current set-up.”
By Nathaniel Cope, RugbyPass