Everything Rennie said about indispensable bench weapon Pete Samu, Leota, Swinton and McMahon

Coach Dave Rennie says the Wallabies don’t have the luxury that the All Blacks enjoy when it comes to resting players, as he spoke in the aftermath of naming a full strength team for Saturday’s clash against Argentina in Townsville. Melbourne flanker Rob Leota was the biggest surprise, forcing his way into the starting side […]

Everything Rennie said about indispensable bench weapon Pete Samu, Leota, Swinton and McMahon

Coach Dave Rennie says the Wallabies don’t have the luxury that the All Blacks enjoy when it comes to resting players, as he spoke in the aftermath of naming a full strength team for Saturday’s clash against Argentina in Townsville.

Melbourne flanker Rob Leota was the biggest surprise, forcing his way into the starting side at No.6 while returning star Sean McMahon and Lachlan Swinton were both missing from the 23-man squad.

Rennie made it clear he chose to reward Leota for his efforts in training and what he saw from the 24-year-old in his seven minute Wallabies career, in game one against the Springboks.

Rennie also kept faith with Pete Samu, raving about the value of his versatility to the team. Reece Hodge was picked at fullback, and has the opportunity for an extended run with Rennie revealing Tom Banks would definitely not return in time from a fratcured arm to make the northern hemisphere tour.

Here’s what Rennie had to say at Thursday’s press conference

On giving a starting debut to Leota and the back row depth

“Big man, good ball carrier, has trained really well and been very close to selection in the past so I think it’s good timing to bring him in,” Rennie said of his biggest selection call.

On McMahon, Rennie said: “I think he’s fit enough. It’s just around all the detail and it’s not just about our attack structures or defence structures, it’s the maul as well.

“But he’s worked really hard, got himself in good nick and will continue to press for selection next week. We’re pretty keen to reward Rob, he’s been with us full time. So that’s a big part of the decision.”

Rennie was gushing in praise for Pete Samu, suggesting he was a must pick bench man.

(Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

“He’s an athlete,” said Rennie. “The type of guy who could easily slot into the midfield. He’s got a great skill set and footwork and is very, very quick.

“He just gives us a point of difference off the bench against tiring defences and the fact he can play 6,7,8 gives us genuine flexibility.

“We’re really happy for Pete because he got one crack last year and didn’t play well. Other guys performed and he didn’t get another chance to come back in and he’s trained superbly, and fought his way in and backed that up with performances on Saturday. I’m really pleased for him.”

Rennie said that considering Samu’s value the other contenders were in a position of being starters or out of the 23 altogether.

“Harry Wilson’s training the house down,” Rennie said.

“We’ve got guys like Fraser McReight and Harry and you can’t fault those men, their training ethic has been fantastic.

“But with Pete Samu on the bench, these guys either start or they miss out. In Fraser’s case he’s got the skipper in front of him but his attitude at training has been fantastic and likewise with Harry.”

Rennie said Swinton was in the same situation, but Leota brought a different skill set.

“Lachie’s done well. He’s been excellent from a lineout point of view and we threw a lot to the fronts because the South Africans defend the middle and the tail,” said Rennie.

“[Swinton] brings an abrasive edge but we have been really impressed with Rob.

“He was outstanding in the Western Force hitout [before Bleidsloe 3], got a little cameo on the Gold Coast off the bench covering lock and carried well for us.

“We just see his ability to give us go forward as important as a foil for Rob Valetini who’s done a lot of carrying for us as well.”

Rennie was asked about Swinton’s discipline. He was nearly red carded last week before the decision was downgraded to yellow.

“That’s certainly a focus for him,” said Rennie. “It’s something we’ve been talking about for a long time and he’s been working really hard on.”

On the return of James O’Connor and selection of Reece Hodge at No.15

Rennie said there was never an intention to start O’Connor at No. 15.

“We wanted to bring James in via the bench,” said Rennie. “He obviously sees himself as a No.10. He’ll cover 15 this weekend, if Reece falls over.

“Hodgey put down a couple of high balls last week, but outside of that he was excellent. His kicking was great and his defence was really strong. He’s a guy who’s filled a lot of holes for us. And he’s really keen to try and establish himself somewhere and 15 is his favourite spot.

“We thought it’s important bringing James into the game later. There’s no doubt that we think he can play 15. He won’t give us the wheels of other guys from the back but he’s a calm head, has a smart kicking game and is a strong organiser.

“We’ll see how things pan out over the next few weeks but we’re really happy with our selection around Reece.”

On being better in the air

The Wallabies had several hairy moments dealing with high kicks against the Springboks and Rennie, when asked if he expected Argentina to target his team in that department, answered ruefully “and every other team we play from now on…”

“There have been a number of things” to explain the issues.

“We’ve given them pretty easy access around us to get to our jumpers which creates a contest in the air. We know we can legally get them on the outside shoulder, run next to them shoulder-to-shoulder and deny them access.

“And we’ve done a pretty poor job around that. We’ve done a lot of work on it. We haven’t seen that work transfer so far.

“Some of those balls should just be caught. The boys work on that every week. Counter attack is a big part of our game but if we can’t secure ball in the air it’s an opportunity lost.

“We played with about 40% ball last week, and mainly because every time they kicked they go it back.”

On playing Argentina and his thoughts on squad rotation

Rennie was asked if he had been tempted to rotate out his top players to give them a rest against the Pumas and Japan, as the All Blacks had managed over the past fortnight.

“It’s hard to make comparisons with us and the All Blacks,” Rennie said.

“They’ve got phenomenal depth, an NPC competition that has 14 teams, it filters into five Super sides that are all pretty similar. They can rotate guys and they don’t actually lose a lot.

“That’s ideally where we want to get to. In our mind it’s more you have to earn the right to wear the jersey. You could argue you should give Fraser a crack. We’re trying to build, we’re trying to grow our group around understanding how we play and we’re starting to see some shifts, but our mindset is we want to put the best 15 out that we can.

“In Super Rugby, where you’ve got a range of ability between different teams, you’re rotating players because you’ve got a lot of games on end, 14-15.

“We’ve got the benefit of having played a couple of Tests then an extended three week break before we’ve gotten to this block of five, then we’ll have a couple of weeks out before Japan.

“There are no easy Tests in amongst that. Japan are a quality side now under Jamie and Tony and then you go to Europe and they’re all tough. We will manage guys from a training perspective. So guys like Hoops and Marika have played big minutes. They’ve been managed a little bit more this week. We still want to give these guys opportunities. But we’re not going to give Test caps away either.”

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

He suggested he was still trying to build his team, while playing down suggestions he was focussed too far ahead on the World Cup.

“Lots of people talk about the World Cup. And clearly it’ll be a focus in time,” Rennie said.

“It’s just around growing our game at the moment. I think we’re well conditioned now, we’ve put a lot of work into that, skill set’s improving. Game awareness has been better.

“We’ve played a team in the last two weeks that doesn’t want to play with the ball. So we’ve kicked a lot to them, to force them to either play a bit or, or give it back to us when they’ve got a less organised defensive screen.

“So I think the ability of players to stick to the plan the last couple of weeks has been really strong.”

Argentina will provide a different challenge.

“they’ll want to express themselves,” said Rennie. “Their forwards throw out a lot more passes, they’ll counter when given the opportunity and they’re very good at it.

“They’re very good at filling the field, very disciplined around defence and can be hard to break down. The All Blacks, a lot of their points came from a little bit of individual brilliance.

“What we’ve learned over the last few weeks is you’ve got to hang in the fight for a long time. Sometimes it takes 60 or 70 minutes to crack a side. We need to see that resilience on the weekend.”

He was asked about preparing for the game as favourites, after being underdogs in the past five Tests.

“We’re not allowed to bet on games so I don’t know the dividends,” Rennie said. “It’s irrelevant really. We’ve had two good performances that we want to build on and so our focus on us.

“We know the Argentinians will be desperate to win because they’ve had four losses so far. We haven’t been talking about favouritism, we’ve talked a lot about building on what we’ve done. Talked about the discipline that needs to be better, we’ve given away too many penalties in the last couple of weeks.

“Playing at the right end of the field and being really disciplined is going to be important for us.

Source : The Roar More   

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WALLABIES TEAM: Leota the No.6 bolter, McMahon overlooked, Hodge starts and JOC on bench

Melbourne-born Rob Leota has been chosen for his starting debut after just seven minutes of Wallabies action with returning star Sean McMahon overlooked for Saturday’s Test against Argentina in Townsville. Leota, 24, came off the bench for a late cameo in the first win over South Africa two weeks ago. McMahon, who was restored to […]

WALLABIES TEAM: Leota the No.6 bolter, McMahon overlooked, Hodge starts and JOC on bench

Melbourne-born Rob Leota has been chosen for his starting debut after just seven minutes of Wallabies action with returning star Sean McMahon overlooked for Saturday’s Test against Argentina in Townsville.

Leota, 24, came off the bench for a late cameo in the first win over South Africa two weeks ago. McMahon, who was restored to the squad under the easing of the Giteau Law will have to wait a little longer for his first Test since 2017 despite Dave Rennie praising his physical condition.

Leota, who can play as a lock or a backrower, made his debut for his hometown Rebels as an 18-year-old back in 2016 and has played 38 times for them.

He was a member of the Junior Wallabies squad that year and was added to the Wallabies training squad earlier this year.

“It’s a really proud moment for Rob and his family to earn his first start in Wallaby gold and we’re all rapt for him,” Rennie said on Thursday.

“He’s really impressed us with his work ethic on and off the field and worked hard for this opportunity.”

Rennie said of McMahon: “He’s fit enough, it’s around the detail. And we’re keen to reward Rob.”

Reece Hodge was named in the No.15 jersey replacing injured Tom Banks, with Rennie opting for the Melbourne Rebels utility ahead of James O’Connor, who has made the bench after recovering from injury.

An unchanged front row sees Queenslander James Slipper play his 109th Test alongside club teammate Folau Fainga’a and Taniela Tupou, who was superb in the win over the Springboks at Suncorp Stadium.

Izack Rodda continues his successful return to the Test arena alongside Matt Philip in the second row.

Leota will be joined in the backrow by skipper Michael Hooper at openside flanker and Rob Valetini at No.8.

Nic White will again partner Quade Cooper in the halves, with Len Ikitau and Samu Kerevi again paired in the midfield.

Hodge’s first start for the season is the only change to the back three, with Marika Koroibete on the left wing and Andrew Kellaway on the right.

The reserve front row sees Queensland-raised Feleti Kaitu’u earn his third cap as the replacement hooker alongside finishing props Tom Robertson and Angus Bell.

Darcy Swain will be the replacement lock with his Brumbies teammate Pete Samu winning the nod ahead of McMahon as the backrow cover after some impressive displays.

Lachlan Swinton, who was sin binned against the Springboks, has come out of the squad altogether and Rennie said work was being done on his tackling style.

Queensland’s Tate McDermott, O’Connor and Jordan Petaia are the backline coverrounds out the game day 23.

Hodge’s selection for Saturday’s match against Argentina is sure to revive memories of last year’s Rugby Championship, where Hodge was Australia’s goal kicker. Twice he failed to land late penalties to win drawn games against Argentina, having also done so against the All Blacks.

With Cooper established as the Wallabies kicker, Hodge should be spared a similar fate this weekend, as long as Cooper stays on the park.

Reece Hodge (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Hodge took over at fullback when Banks suffered a fractured forearm against South Africa on Saturday and played 50 minutes, kicking well but showing some signs of instability under the high ball.

His versatility has helped him past 50 Test caps but he admitted recently he would have liked to have made a place his own.

Hodge came back from an injury this season to play on the wing against France as a replacement when Filipo Daugunu broke his arm.

He was considered a chance to replace Noah Lolesio at No.10 before Quade Cooper returned in stunning fashion in the first Test against the All Blacks.

With Banks out for at least six weeks, Hodge can lay claim to the No.15 for an extended run through the northern hemisphere tour with an outstanding performance on Saturday.

He recently was asked about his failure to secure a regular starting spot and where that might be.

“I don’t know. It’s a question I’m constantly asked and don’t know how to answer it to be honest,” Hodge said.

“I’m happy to fill that utility role … (but) whether that’s 10, 15, anywhere really, you want to be playing as many minutes as possible for your country,” he said.

“Hopefully I can just make the most of any minutes I’ve got over the last few games and just keep pushing for that starting team.”

Rennie has rewarded Hodge for his efforts.

“He fills holes all over the place and maybe that’s his frustration,” he said recently. “He’s Mr Fixit and he’s played just about every position outside of 10 this year. I know he’s keen to pin down a spot and he’s certainly applying pressure.”

Wallabies team
1. James Slipper (108 Tests)
2. Folau Fainga’a (19 Tests)
3. Taniela Tupou (33 Tests)
4. Izack Rodda (28 Tests)
5. Matt Philip (17 Tests)
6. Rob Leota (1 Test)
7. Michael Hooper (c) (113 Tests)
8. Rob Valetini (12 Tests)
9. Nic White (41 Tests)
10. Quade Cooper (72 Tests)
11. Marika Koroibete (41 Tests)
12. Samu Kerevi (36 Tests)
13. Len Ikitau (7 Tests)
14. Andrew Kellaway (7 Tests)
15. Reece Hodge (51 Tests)
Replacements
16. Feleti Kaitu’u (2 Tests)
17. Angus Bell (10 Tests)
18. Tom Robertson (25 Tests)
19. Darcy Swain (7 Tests)
20. Pete Samu (13 Tests)
21. Tate McDermott (10 Tests)
22. James O’Connor (55 Tests)
23. Jordan Petaia (12 Tests)

Source : The Roar More   

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