He rejected the chance to coach the All Blacks and now Dave Rennie is hoping to win over sceptical Wallabies fans with “high-octane” and “brutal” rugby.
Rennie is the first to admit he may not be the most popular choice to succeed Michael Cheika after being appointed the Wallabies’ second-ever foreign-born coach following Robbie Deans’ reign from 2008 to 2013.
And he’s another Kiwi no less, born and raised in the country of Australia’s fiercest and greatest rugby foes.
“I get it. I think Australians want their national team coached by an Australian,” Rennie said following his appointment through to the 2023 World Cup in France.
“I’m okay with that. I know they care about their team.
“All I can say is that everywhere I’ve gone I’ve immersed myself in the community and culture.
“I guess we’ll be judged by what we do, not what I say now but I assure you I care about the future of Australian rugby.”
So much so, seemingly, the 55-year-old who transformed the Chiefs from under-achieving entertainers into back-to-back Super Rugby champions in 2013 will be licensed to coach the Wallabies to play “the Australian way”.
“It’s a pretty competitive sporting landscape here. I think Australians want to see Australians play attacking rugby or a brand that is attractive,” said RA’s director of rugby Scott Johnson
“But it’s got to be successful. It just can’t be willy nilly. It’s got to have method to it. He brings that too.”
AAP put it to Johnson that Cheika was widely criticised for his dogged determination to also play attacking rugby come what may.
“He’s had success here playing the same game, so it’s a fickle world,” Johnson said of Cheika.
“He won Super Rugby playing a very attractive style of rugby and he deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done in Australian rugby.
“It’s no coincidence that the sides that kick the most seem to have a bit of success. It’s not just kicking, it’s judicious kicking, trying to make the game a little bit unstructured that suits us as well.
“It’s finding the balance between when to kick, how to kick and why to kick and running the ball – that’s the balance.
“Cheik went out in a way, fair credit to him, that was his philosophy. He wanted to play that way and I’m all for any coach that has a philosophy that says this is what I’m going to live or die by.
“It shows great courage to do it.”
Rennie, a former school teacher and bar owner, now coaches the Glasgow Warriors in the Pro14.
“With the teams I coach, it’s a high-skill, high-speed type of game hopefully mixed with some rugby smarts and a bit of brutality,” he said.
“There’s a positive mindset to play mixed with a sharp kicking game.”
Rennie had been sounded out to take over from Steve Hansen as All Blacks coach.
“The big thing was I’d been talking to Australia for a lot of months and the interest from the All Blacks came late in the piece,” he said.
“By that stage, we’d done a lot of homework and were really excited about coming to Australia so it ended up an easy decision.”