It has been five years since Australia triumphed in the Rugby Championship and new head coach Dave Rennie will be determined to address the issue after replacing Michael Cheika.
The Wallabies parted company with Cheika following their quarter-final hammering at the hands of England in the 2019 World Cup. Outside of their drive to the final of the 2015 World Cup, Australia struggled to match up against the elite teams in the world, falling behind England, Ireland, Wales and South Africa, while the gap to New Zealand was always out of their reach.
Their disappointment in Japan was the final straw for the Wallabies’ hierarchy as Rennie was appointed to replace Cheika. Rennie arrives in the post after a successful period in charge of the Glasgow Warriors, guiding the club to the Pro 14 Grand Final last year, only to be beaten by Leinster. He developed players at the Warriors such as Matt Fagerson, Jonny Gray and Huw Jones into top talents.
Rugby Australia will be hopeful that he can achieve that same standard during his tenure, building towards the next World Cup. Australia are backed in the rugby union betting odds at 14/1 to win the competition in three years, highlighting the challenge ahead of Rennie to claw back the lost ground to South Africa, New Zealand and the leading northern hemisphere outfits.
There are building blocks in place, although Rennie will face tough decisions over whether to cull the older members of his squad. England coach Eddie Jones was presented with a similar situation when he took charge of the Red Rose in 2016 and the results were evident in their performances at the 2019 World Cup apart from their loss to the Springboks in the final.
Adam Ashley-Cooper, David Pocock, Will Genia and Sekope Kepu are among the names that have already opted to retire from international rugby. Rennie has confirmed that even captain Michael Hooper is not guaranteed to receive the armband, putting his place in the starting line-up in jeopardy and potentially even the squad.
Kurtley Beale’s position could also be under threat following his decision to leave the NSW Waratahs. The best days of his career are behind him and he will be 35 at the time of the next World Cup. Christian Lealiifano, Rob Simmons and James Slipper may also be under the spotlight as Rennie seeks to rebuild the Wallabies.
Fortunately for the coach, there are a number of promising talents in Super Rugby ready to rise into the squad. Tom Banks should have no issues slotting back into the team to replace Beale at full-back as he looks to kickstart his international career after four appearances. He has fared well for Brumbies and at the age of 26 has good experience and the scope to improve.
Nic White is locked in for now at scrum-half, although Tate McDermott could pressure him for the starting spot. The 21-year-old is an exciting talent for Queensland Reds and would have time to develop in relief of White before taking on full-time duties. Filipo Daugunu could continue the exciting trend of ex-Fijian players to make the transition to the Wallabies.
He has been nothing short of outstanding for the Reds on the wing and he has the right attributes to become a star under Rennie, having already committed himself for the long term with Queensland. Isaac Lucas and Matt Philip are also names to monitor, but it will be up to Rennie and his staff to mould them into shape for the Rugby Championship and beyond.
The Rugby Championship will be Rennie’s first test, and although no Australian rugby union fan is expecting the title, a view into a promising future will have to be showcased.