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Rugby News: Rennie's verdict on Banks exit and Wallabies' toughest selection call, red-faced Rassie, 'proud' McKellar

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5th June, 2022
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Wallabies coach Dave Rennie says Tom Banks’ decision to leave Australia at the end of the season could have an impact on his thinking when he selects teams from now through to the World Cup next year.

Banks is leaving the Brumbies to play in Japan after the Brumbies’ Super Rugby campaign ends and is expected to play some role in the England series. A squad of 30 plus will be named next Sunday or Monday after the Super Rugby semis.

Last week Banks said he’d spoken to Rennie about his international future and the coach was “upbeat” about his prospects.

But in an interview with Code Sports Rennie has suggested that loyalty to the local game could be the deciding factor if faced with a choice between Banks and another fullback this year.

“Each week we pick a team with an emphasis on beating England,” said Rennie.

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Tom Banks of the Wallabies

Tom Banks taking on New Zealand in Bledisloe 1 (Yeung/Getty Images)

“If we feel that there’s not much between say Tom and someone else then we could potentially pick the other guy knowing that Tom’s heading away.

“He’s had a great season so far. If he plays really well for us this year and goes to Japan and looks after himself, who knows, there could be an opportunity for him to go to a World Cup.

“We fully understand why he’s leaving. He wants to be here but he’s got a great opportunity and he could be back in a couple of years to take on the Lions. That’s not lost on us. He’s still an option this year obviously and next year for the World Cup.”

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Rennie said he considered Banks to be the incumbent despite missing the end of last Test season with injury.

Harry Jones and Brett McKay are joined by NZ writer Jamie Wall to look at the crisis engulfing the All Blacks in the latest Roar Rugby Podcast. Stream it here or in your app of choice

“Tom started every Test until he got injured and after that we used Hodgey and then he got injured, we used Kell, and Kurtley got in late,” Rennie said.

“And all those men actually played really well. And we got Jordy Petaia and Jock Campbell and even guys like Jake Strachan’s had a really good year for the Force.

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“We’ve got some options there. Kurtley’s been injured for a big chunk of the past three months with a hamstring injury and that sort of thing so he’s got a race against the close so he’s ready to do.”

While the loss of Banks could have an impact, Rennie said the retention of others such as Nick Frost, Nic White and Noah Lolesio was “really important.”

“It’s a challenging time from a players perspective because you’re talking about massive sums of money. I don’t begrudge any of the guys leaving, but we’re talking to them all,” said Rennie.

” You can’t promise these guys. But we’re trying to create an environment that they want to be a part of and the lure of the Wallaby jersey. So, some of those guys are staying because they want to go to a World Cup and they want to play more Tests and their opportunity to go overseas will come at a later date.

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“It’s important, we’ve already got a lot of players playing overseas and to keep our team strong and competitive we need a lot of these quality players and we’re talking about young blokes really outside of Nic [White] and it’s massive for the future of the game. We’re rapt.”

Rennie was asked what he thought the hardest positions to pick would be when it comes time to settle on a team for the first Test against England.

“I think we’ll be as strong as anywhere at 9,” Rennie said. “If you look at all those nines we used last year, Nic, Tate [McDermott] and Jake [Gordon], they’ve all been in excellent form. You’ve got Ryan Lonergan behind that whose an excellent nine and I reckon going to be a really good Test player in time.

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“There’s genuine competition at nine. That’s the position we’ve got the most depth in.”

Rennie said his goal this season was to improve on last year.

“Last year was really good for us. But in the end we want to be better then how we performed last year because in the end we won seven and lost seven and finished with three losses,” Rennie said.

“What’s positive is the Waratah boys will take confidence out of beating the Kiwi sides, so will the Brumbies boys.

“The Reds have been there and thereabouts. They started really well but they’ve lost some big moments and haven’t been able to apply pressure in the second half when it counts. So hopefully those players take out a bit of confidence.

“But what it’s doing is it’s creating more depth and competition for places and that’s key – there’s going to be some good players miss out.”

‘More maturity and experience’

Wallabies legend George Gregan says the Wallabies are improved on their World Cup campaign three years ago and can give next year’s tournament a shake.

The Wallabies haven’t won the tournament since 1999 and the 2019 edition ended with a quarter-final exit to England.

“There’s some really good young players who were part of that 2019 squad, but have more maturity and experience now,” Gregan told the Daily Mail.

“It’s just a matter of consistency in international rugby and the margins are always very small.

“A World Cup sometimes isn’t about what you’ve done previously. South Africa, for example, won in 2019 but if you track their form before, you wouldn’t have put them down as a world champion.”

Blues skipper missing finals

While the Brumbies face a couple of nervous days waiting for the judiciary verdict on Len Ikitau’s red card, the Blues have confirmed their in-form skipper Dalton Papalii

The Blues final four push will come without influential captain Dalton Papalii is out for the rest of the tournament.

Papalii was rushed into surgery on Friday for an emergency operation with his appendix.

“He came in and spoke to the boys before kickoff which highlights how passionate he is around this group,” said coach Leon MacDonald.

“We want him back as soon as possible but we’ll be guided by the doctors and I don’t know how long that’ll be unfortunately.”

The Brumbies had to dig deep, down 14-3 and a man when Ikitau was marched.

“I’m just really proud … we spoke about resilience and it’s a big part of our club,” said coach Dan McKellar.

“It’s one of our pillars, words on the wall don’t mean a whole lot but actions that we saw tonight mean so much.

“14-3 and a red card, it’s easy to get rattled and plenty of teams do but I could tell at halftime that they were fine.”

McKellar compared next weekend’s trip to Auckland with a previous assignment, and said he felt his team could match the Blues after going down to the wire with them in Canberra last month.

“We’ve been here before … we had to go to Argentina a couple of years ago and play a semi over there, we go to Auckland really confident,” he said.

“We felt we should have won that game a couple of weeks ago, there’s an enormous amount of respect for them.

“They’ve got threats across the park, we feel we’ve got the game that can challenge them and we’ll prepare for that.”

Red-faced Rassie

He’s no stranger to eye-catching social media posts but Rassie Erasmus was left red-faced when a retweet of a hardcore porn clip was sent from his Twitter account on Saturday.

Erasmus, famed for a much long video, was apoplectic as he tried in vain to have the tweet deleted for many hours after his account was apparently hacked.

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