'Massive coup': New Zealander Rennie appointed Australia coach

by Martin PARRY
Dave Rennie will coach Australia through to the 2023 World Cup

New Zealander Dave Rennie was tasked on Wednesday with resurrecting Australia's rugby team, replacing Michael Cheika as head coach in a "massive coup" that will see him lead the Wallabies to the 2023 World Cup in France.

The 55-year-old, only the second non-Australian appointed to the job, will fulfil his commitments with Scottish side Glasgow Warriors, where he is currently coach, before assuming his new role in July next year, Rugby Australia said.

The Wallabies are due to play Ireland in Brisbane on July 4, giving Rennie little time to stamp his mark on the side before the Rugby Championship, where they face World Cup winners South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina.

That two-game series against the Irish will be an important one to restore faith in the team after their World Cup quarter-final exit to England in Japan, where their tactics were widely criticised.

Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle, herself a New Zealander, said Rennie had always been the favoured choice to replace Cheika, who fell on his sword after the World Cup and a series of poor results leading up to it.

"This is a massive coup for Australian rugby. Dave Rennie was the clear standout candidate for the job, and we're thrilled to have secured his services," Castle said.

"Dave's coaching philosophy focuses equally on football and team culture, the key pillars to building sustainable success in any team. He has a proven track record in the northern and southern hemisphere."

Castle said six or seven candidates were in the running, and confirmed she had spoken to England coach Eddie Jones, but he remained under contract and was ruled out.

Rennie, who follows compatriot Robbie Deans as the only other foreigner to coach the Wallabies, had been sounded out by New Zealand Rugby about applying for the All Blacks job.

All Blacks assistant Ian Foster and three-time Super Rugby-winning Crusaders coach Scott Robertson appear to be the front-runners for that position, left vacant by Steve Hansen's departure.

Japan coach Jamie Joseph also ruled himself out of the All Blacks job when he signed a new, four-year deal with the Brave Blossoms this week.

"I've been coaching professionally for over 20 years and wherever I've gone, I've immersed myself in the community and culture. I believe I can make a difference here," Rennie said in a statement.

"There are some outstanding young men coming through the schools system. I want to create a strong connection with the Super Rugby and national age-grade coaches and help them achieve their goals, which will benefit the Wallabies in time," he said.

"When I met Raelene Castle, I was really impressed with her plans for the future of Australian rugby and I'm keen to be part of that," he added.

- 'Tracksuit coach'

Rennie has enjoyed huge success as a coach which bodes well for the Wallabies, who are rebuilding after losing a swathe of senior players through retirement or moves overseas since the World Cup ended.

Rennie joined New Zealand Super Rugby franchise the Waikato Chiefs as coach in 2012 and led them to back-to-back southern hemisphere titles in his first two years in charge.

The Hamilton-based team played finals in each of the six seasons he spent with them, a mark unmatched by any head coach in the competition's history.

He was appointed Glasgow Warriors coach for the 2017/18 season and in his second year took them to the Pro14 final and the last eight of the European Champions Cup, the first time the Warriors have made the playoffs in both competitions.

Australian director of rugby Scott Johnson, who knew Rennie from his previous role with the Scotland Rugby Union, called him a "really humble man, a tracksuit coach".

"He does a lot of work on skills development, plays a very attractive way and what you see is what you get," he said. "That fits our dynamic. He's a hard-working coach too -- first in and last to leave, and he has good people skills."

Johnson said Wallabies assistant coaches would manage the team until Rennie takes over in July, though Rennie will come to Australia at least once to "check directions".

"We will be in complete dialogue through that period," he said.

Dave Rennie replaces Michael Cheika as coach of the Wallabies, in a deal that will take him through to the 2023 World Cup