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'Blew everybody's minds': The Rennie tactics Nic White expects Joe Schmidt to relaunch with wounded Wallabies

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19th February, 2024
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Wallabies scrumhalf Nic White is craving, and expecting, a return to the tactical approach of Dave Rennie under the stewardship of new coach Joe Schmidt.

White was a guest on The Roar Rugby Podcast with hosts Christy Doran and Matt Toomua, who also played under Dave Rennie for the Wallabies.

The Wallabies No.9 gave a fascinating insight into what the team had under Rennie – who was sacked in early 2023 ahead of Australia’s disastrous World Cup campaign – and what they apparently lacked under Eddie Jones.

White was asked how he felt when Rennie was axed.

“Gutted. So disappointed for him as well. But also the feeling of where we were at and where we’re going. Yeah, really disappointing,” White said.

Toomua, the two-time World Cup Wallaby, added: “I thought it sucked. He worked on it for three years, laying the foundation and we, just under pressure, made the wrong call.

“It kind of feels like we’re back at the start of that three-year cycle or four-year cycle now with someone who’s going to try and implement some change. It’d be nice to be four years along yet we’ve kind of just gambled and gone backwards.”

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Matt To’omua and Nic White celebrate following the Wallabies’ World Cup pool win over Fiji at Sapporo Dome on September 21, 2019 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Toomua is expecting big things from Schmidt, and suggested New Zealanders make superior coaches in one area in particular.

“I find the Kiwis better tactically,” he said. “So week-to-week they’ll add or change a few things tactically.

“One thing people probably don’t realise about a lot of the Kiwi coaches is they are extremely structured. Very, very structured, they put a structure in place which allows your freedom to use options within that.

“You know where your players are going to be. But you’re not sticking to the script – you can play at the back, over the top, kick.

“There’s real, hard, accountability on where the players have got to be and when.

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“Structure’s often a word that in Australia we run away from because we like the old free flowing days.

“But these days, as organised as defences are, you’ve got to have a structure that you can work within. Structure gives you freedom. And I think ‘Rens’ was good at that.”

While White didn’t directly criticise Jones – who preached a return to a free-flowing Randwick and Australian style – he made his thoughts clear on the difference between the Japan coach’s approach and that of Rennie before him.

“We’re scared of the word structure, but it’s not structured in terms of being too strict,” White explained.

“The options are all available. Everyone has a place in on the field at any point in time and a job to do. Within that you’ve got every option available to you.

“When you have the accountability of where you’re supposed to be, you won’t get to the point where we were at the World Cup and the whole team is in 20 metres of the field, and you’re wondering where we can’t use the whole width of the field because no one’s out on the other side.

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“With ‘Rens’, everyone has a job, has a home. And then the decisions are like open; then it’s heads up. You know where everybody is and every option is available to you. Now it’s about making the right decisions.

“I don’t think it’s a Kiwi thing. I just think good coaches understand that defences are just too good now, so far ahead, and so detailed you need to know who’s going to be in that position to clean out because defence is just so high line speed.

“So many guys are on the ball these days. It used to be just you worried about the seven. You’re worried about Pocock or or George Smith. Now you got to worry about every bugger. We’ve got some nines who put their heads over the ball now.

“You’ve got to be ahead of the game in attack and really smart.”

Nic White of the Wallabies looks on during the Australia captain's run ahead of their Rugby World Cup France 2023 match against Portugal at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on September 30, 2023 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Nic White. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

White said he had yet to meet Schmidt but heard he was very similar in approach to Rennie, who had changed the way he looked at the game.

“Dave opened my mind to counter attack and how structured that was. He viewed it as a set piece the counter attack,” said White.

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“There are more counter attack opportunities than scrums and lineouts so therefore let’s have a plan off the back of it.

“Let’s go two or three phases of where everyone’s going to be depending on where you land, and where the fullback or wingers or whoever’s bringing it back lands, and let’s have a call for it.

“I think that blew everyone’s mind as well. We look across the ditch and we see all these kind of ball just kind of going around but there’s a lot more there’s a lot more beneath that to allow them to be able to do that.”

The Roar Podcast will be back later in the week with team news and a preview of the weekend’s opening round of fixtures.

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