The historical revisionism and wishful thinking floating around this site now is tantamount to denial.
“Should never have got rid of Rennie”.
“Eddie is a clown”.
“This is what you get when you don’t take Cooper and Hooper to a Rugby World Cup.”
The uncomfortable truth, is that the Wallabies just aren’t good enough. They haven’t been for years.
David Campese, often maligned but usually right, observed that it was sad to see Australia “looking so short of basic rugby skills and IQ.”
Man for man, the Wallabies are more often than not beaten by their opposition.
Forget breakdown accuracy, forget intricate defensive patterns. It’s basic passing, running and tackling that is lacking all too regularly.
Not a single Wallaby would be picked in a World XV except for arguably a fully fit Taniela Tupou who is too often lacking conditioning or injured.
Was Quade Cooper even in the top five fly-halves in the World in 2021, let alone now? Very doubtful when players like Johnny Sexton, Finn Russell, Handre Pollard and Richie Mo’unga are running around.
To suggest that Cooper would have made all the difference today based on above-average performances in a Covid-interrupted 2021 is nonsense.
Forget his Achilles injury for a moment, he had the benefit of a rampaging Samu Kerevi in 2021, a benefit he wouldn’t have now.
The crowd also seems to have forgotten that Cooper turned his back on the Autumn Internationals and Super Rugby all too often, missed the opportunity to solidify his position and went to Japan.
Would Michael Hooper have reversed the tide at the breakdown against Fiji?
Has Michael Hooper been the best 7 in Australia for the majority of the past decade?
Pocock was a better 7. Fraser McReight is a better 7. Players like Liam Gill probably were better 7s too.
His leadership ability has also been vastly overblown. He’s won nothing while captaining a team that has never been disciplined and often drew the wrath of officials as well as its own coaches.
Yes, that’s very harsh, but it seems nothing less will do.
The Wallabies bombed try after try against Georgia and got away with it. They did the same a week later against a plucky but limited Fiji and didn’t.
This isn’t new, the ill-discipline and brain explosions haven’t crept in since Hooper faded away and Cooper was dropped. They’ve been there for years.
Because our players think they are better than they are, have been living off the success of past generations for the good part of a decade and walk onto the field thinking all they need to do is show up.
Eddie Jones went all in on youth for this tournament because he didn’t want experienced losers.
Why take a bunch of old boys to a Rugby World Cup hoping you might win a quarter final when you can take the young blokes and hope for the same?
Admittedly, Eddie now finds himself on the precipice of being the first Wallaby coach to not make it out of the Pool stage.
But maybe that’s the shock Australian Rugby, its administrators, unions and players need to move forward.
‘Possibly winning a quarter final’ should not be a measure of success for Australian Rugby.
Which brings me to Dave Rennie.
Let’s be clear, it was morally wrong for Rennie to be discarded 75% of the way through a four-year cycle. Eddie should have and could have waited his turn.
But the idea that Rennie’s Wallabies might have won this tournament or got past one, let alone two, knock out games is fanciful for many reasons.
Under Rennie, the Wallabies became the most penalised Tier 1 Nation in the world. During their final swing through Europe, Rennie’s Australia averaged 13.8 penalties per Test, according to stats provided by Oval.
That trend wasn’t decreasing by the way, it was getting worse.
Darcy Swain’s cheap shot, the ‘Raynal fiasco’, Folau Fainga’a’s card against Ireland. The list of stupid penalties costing tests is long but distinguished.
How many times in post-match conferences did Dave Rennie lament yellow cards, silly penalties and discipline?
Yet nothing changed. As Paul Cully of the Sydney Morning Herald said in November 2022, ‘Nice guy Rennie needs to get ruthless on Wallabies’ ill discipline’.
For three years, Rennie was also unable to settle on who he wanted to play the game with.
Yes, he had some awful luck with players like Kerevi and Hooper.
Yet, during his last games in charge he hadn’t settled on his best hooker, best fly half or best fullback. Selection under Rennie was not pretty.
There were also crazy in-game decisions. Rennie’s subbing of Bernard Foley 10 minutes from the end of the Test against France was silly. Sending Donaldson on for his debut with three minutes to go against Italy was worse.
Eddie Jones wasn’t sitting in the coach’s box those days. Hamish McLennan didn’t force Rennie to make those decisions.
Like say, Ewen McKenzie, Rennie was a good man, a good coach. Many of you maintain Eddie is neither.
But both are really just victims of Australian Rugby’s malaise.
Christy Doran wrote last month that “Rugby Australia is preparing to announce an agreement in principle to work together with the five Super Rugby franchises to become more aligned.”
Are they serious? It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry. Wishy washy is too kind.
If we fail to make it out of our Pool, maybe, just maybe it will light a fire under Australian Rugby, the QRU and NSWRU which might lead to better pathways and progress towards better players.
It might even save a few good coaches.