I was surprised at the team announced for the third Test in Perth on Sunday.
It’s not that any of the players were a surprise, it was more that I thought this was a Test in which Dave Rennie could look to improve the team, and that opportunity should have been taken. He has been improving the team with each game, but now he may not be putting enough pressure on a few players by balancing the stability of the team with position threats.
The most obvious was not including Izack Rodda in the starting team. Darcy Swain is an excellent lock in the making, and a run off the bench might have been just what he needed – that is, to watch Rodda and then come on to prove himself a better option.
It’s a similar story with Noah Lolesio. He’s a talented kid, but I’m not sure that showing great faith in him is exactly what he needs at the moment. Giving Quade Cooper the first 40 minutes could have been a great swan song for him and a chance to prove his critics wrong while also allowing Lolesio to understand that his spot is not safe.
I found it odd that Rennie talked Cooper up and then didn’t use him. Did he just need another coach to help Lolesio? Who plays at No. 10 if Lolesio is injured? There is only Reece Hodge, and although I like him, I would prefer him elsewhere.
This brings me to the next one, Tom Banks. Hodge should have been given the important role of No. 15 – he is far better at defending in that position, which I think he proved in the Rugby World Cup. He also hits the line harder than Banks and could make more of a dent or break it.
The advantage I see in Banks being left out of the 23 and Cooper being included in it is that Jordan Petaia may get a run in the centres, which I am keen to see, with Lolesio covering No. 10, centre and wing until he replaces Cooper.
I would have started Nic White in this game were I not going to use Cooper with Tate McDermott. White would help the organisation, and he is also quick around the park, has a better pass and can tackle.
My view is, like most of us on The Roar, that we are happy with Rennie, but I would have thought that, given he has only a few games this year to decide on a stable team to take to the next Rugby World Cup, he would be looking to get more out of what is available to him.
At the moment I’m not sure he has finalised the players who could make it, and next year may be too late.
The window for Dave Rennie to experiment is closing, I understand the pressure to win games, but he needs to either have a clear idea of who could stand up or he needs to take opportunities like this game to find other contenders in what is beginning to look like a small pond of players.