Wallabies coach Dave Rennie cut a frustrated and, at times angry, figure in the coach’s box as his team was well beaten for the third time in the series against the All Blacks in Perth, but the Kiwi insisted he’s “loving” the experience no matter how hard it looks on him.
Rennie was left to bemoan poor execution once again, but the reality is the quality of the All Blacks, even missing three stars, made things tough on his side.
Although Australia had a win and a draw against New Zealand last season, only to be thumped all three times this campaign, Rennie insists they are trending in the right direction.
This is what he had to say on the big issues from Sunday’s game, in his post match press conference.
On how he felt the game went
“We played a lot of good footy and created chances to put a bit of heat on them on the scoreboard but we didn’t turn pressure into points and if turn the ball over against the All Blacks, they can punish you from a long way out and we saw that again today,” said Rennie.
“We felt that was a pretty even first half. We were down 18-0 but we got over the line a couple of times only to be denied.
“And the All Blacks were good enough to take their opportunities. We felt that if we could score first we could get ourselves back into the game. While frustrated with the score line, we felt we played some pretty good footy and had to keep doing that and be accurate. Be patient.”
On how tough it’s been facing the All Blacks seven times in his 12 games in charge
“I came into it with my eyes open,” Rennie said. “We’ve got a lot of good men who are working really hard. Yeah, we’ve had seven Tests against the All Blacks. Ultimately I think it’s great for us.
“We’re learning quickly. We’ve got the world champions coming up for a couple of Tests, and that’s going to be great for us as well.”
On what the Wallabies must do better
“We’ve go to be better at putting ourselves in position to win these games,” he said. “We have to be clinical.
“We’ve got to look after the ball. There were way too many turnovers post tackle. And we’re really reluctant to kick.
“There’s times when it’s on to kick, we’ve squeezed them up, the 15 is up and no one is covering in behind. We talk a lot about it. But I guess from a coaching perspective, we’ll keep driving it, to do a better job around our ability to play when it’s on to play and kick when it’s obvious.
“It’s an ability to play what’s in front of us. We’re not saying we’re not going to play. But often if you’ve gone three phases, and you haven’t gone forward, there maybe some obvious kicking space, where you can put the pressure back on them. It’s an area where we need to be better.”
On the stuggles at the breakdown
“I think a couple of times we’ve gotten into areas where we were pretty isolated,” said Rennie.
“They’ve actually got more defenders than we’ve got attackers and they’re the situations where we’ve got to be prepared to put the ball in behind them and back our defence from there.
“It’s a range of things. And, you know, they’re very good over the ball and we lost a few races. Ball carriers have got to do a better job trying to buy some time for us.
“That’s an area we’ve put massive time into and it’s disappointing we didn’t do a better job there tonight.
“Our discipline needs to be better and our ability to close out opportunities for us to score does too.”
On whether they’re making progress
“It’s easy to just look at the scoreboard but we gifted them a lot of points,” Rennie said.
“A couple more intercepts today, we gave a couple away last game, so I feel the scoreline in the last couple of weeks hasn’t been a fair indication of where the game’s at.
“But that’s just the way it is. We’ve got to deny them opportunities, got to defend for long periods and we’ve got to be clinical when we get our chances. Our attack has grown a lot throughout that period and, as some others are saying, if you’re playing a bit of footy, if you turn it over, you can get exposed.
“That’s the balance to our game. We know where we want to be, we’re working hard and got a good group of young men who are learning quickly.
“We’ve talked about areas. About being able to apply pressure for long periods of time. But we’ve got to be able to turn pressure into points and on the back of that exit well and apply pressure down the other end of the field again.
“We’ve got to be better, no doubt. But I still feel we’re trending in the right direction.”
On preparing for the Springboks
“We’ve got six days by the time we get back so that’s a short week for us, ” Rennie said.
“We’ll review. There are areas that were very good in. At times we defended really well. But you’ve got to keep coming at the All Blacks and you can’t turn over pill against them because they’ll hurt you.
“What we know about the Springboks, they’re very good post tackle as well and have a lot of big men. So we need to be really clinical around that. And our skill set needs to be top notch so we can apply a bit of pressure.”
He said James O’Connor would come into camp on the Gold Coast on Monday and be assessed.
“He’ll run tomorrow and we’ll get a bit of clarity around where he’s at.”
On the decision to give Jordie Barrett a red card
“I think it’s good that we’ve got a 20 minute red card at the moment because it’s certainly not malicious,” Rennie said. “But based on law, when you when you field a ball and you kick your foot out and kick someone in the head, there’s got to be repercussions for that.
“I think that decision is probably accurate and the fact it’s only 20 minutes is a good thing.”
And on how he’s finding the gig
“I’m loving it,” Rennie said. “I’ve done pretty well over the years to not get caught on TV showing emotion.
“But yeah it’s frustrating. On game day, you sit in the box and you don’t have a massive impact on the game. But I’m loving it. We’ve got great people here.
“We’re working really hard, it’s a challenge, we’re playing the best teams in the world. I have no doubt we’re going to learn because the All Blacks are such a good side and we’re relishing the opportunity to now play against the Springboks.”