'Conversations in the background': Wallabies' repeat offenders to be punished
SPOTLIGHT: The Wallabies have vowed to wield the axe on serial penalty offenders in a bid to defy the doomsayers by winning next year’s Rugby World Cup in France.
Former World Cup captain Stirling Mortlock slammed the side after Saturday’s shock 27-28 loss to Italy, labelling the performance a “train wreck”.
Mortlock claimed the Wallabies had “no chance” of winning the 2023 World Cup, and demanded the coaches fix “systemic” discipline issues once and for all.
But while acknowledging the discipline issues, Wallabies assistant Dan McKellar is adamant Australia remain capable of laying their hands on the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time.
“What you’ll find is the 33 [players] that go to the World Cup next year are certainly good enough to win that trophy,” McKellar said.
But with Australia being the most penalised tier-one team in international rugby, McKellar concedes ill-discipline is a problem that the coaching staff are still trying to fix.
When asked about what the consequences will be for repeat offenders, McKellar had a simple answer.
“Selection,” he said.
“There’s players who we have conversations with who we feel are repeat offenders, and there are conversations in the background with the coaches, and obviously selection has an impact around that as well.
“Rugby is a complex game. You’re going to give penalties away. But it’s the silly penalties that you can easily avoid that are hurting us at critical moments.
“There were a number of offside penalties there [against Italy] and some effort areas where we’ve got to be better.”
McKellar said his team were taking “100 percent ownership” of its discipline issues rather than heaping any of the blame on to referees.
“It’s on us. And as coaches and players, we’ve got to fix it,” he said.
“The fix is within the room. We can’t be pointing the finger and blaming the officials.”
The Wallabies’ task will get a whole lot harder this weekend when they take on world No.1 Ireland in Dublin.
McKellar insists the coaching group remain united despite overseeing heartbreaking one-point losses to France and Italy over the past fortnight.
“One thing with Dave Rennie is you won’t come across a more composed individual,” McKellar said.
“The reality is we’re under a little bit of stress at the moment, and you need a leader who will keep the group tight.
“We’re as tight as we ever have been.”
Rennie made 12 changes ahead of the loss to the Azzurri as part of a rotation policy, and it’s expected there will be more mass changes this week as the Wallabies welcome back a host of first-choice players.