Rugby: Incoming Wallabies coach Dave Rennie braced for challenges, as Glasgow reign comes to an end

Incoming Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.
Incoming Wallabies coach Dave Rennie. Photo credit: Getty

Dave Rennie believes he is well equipped to deal with the new tests he's expecting to face as head coach of the struggling Wallabies.

The New Zealander - whose four-year spell with the Glasgow Warriors ends next week - replaces Michael Cheika, who left after Australia's quarter-final exit at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. 

Rennie was announced as the new Wallabies coach in November and plenty has changed at Rugby Australia (RA) since his appointment. 

In April, chief executive Raelene Castle resigned following a string of controversies, while Wallabies lock Izack Rodda had his contracts torn up after he refused to accept a coronavirus enforced pay-cut.

On top of that, RA is struggling financially, as they're staring at a AU$120 million ($NZ128m) revenue black hole this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Things have been a bit messy and that's putting it mildly," Rennie said in a video conference call from his home in Glasgow. "An enormous amount of stuff has come out in the press and that's one thing I'd like to stop.

"A lot of discussions need to happen behind closed doors… but there are lots of good things happening in Australian rugby. The Super Rugby coaches have given us a lot of access to the players and we've done a lot of work with those guys.

"Personally I'm in a better place than I would have been if we'd been playing PRO14, so if there are any positives from the pause to the season it would be that. I'm a lot clearer on the players and where they are at and what we need to do."

Rennie led the Chiefs to back-to-back Super Rugby titles before departing for Scotland,  where he led Glasgow to the Pro14 final last season. 

While he may not have collected any trophies, he says his time in the north has been "special", with one highlight being able to see some family history along the way.

"All my coaching had been down in New Zealand so I wanted to experience a different culture, different ways of playing rugby and it is different up here," he said. "It's been great.

"But it's the people I'll miss. The Scottish are funny people and I haven't laughed as much in any environment as much as I have in my time here.

"I've travelled all over Scotland and had a decent look at various things. My grandfather was born in Stranraer so we spent a bit of time down there. We went up to Skye and went to Oban and went to this seafood restaurant right on the water and it was as good as any seafood I've ever tasted.

"I've loved the food, I've loved the people and I've loved our time here. It's been special, we'll miss it."

Rennie will return to New Zealand in the coming weeks and serve a mandatory quarantine, before beginning preparations to move to Australia in July.

He will be replaced by Scotland assistant Danny Wilson and will have a virtual farewell due to Scotland's current coronavirus restrictions. 

"It's come around quickly," he said. "It's a little bit odd that I'm not going to get a chance to say goodbye face-to-face but I'm jumping on a lot of calls with players.

"But we're not too bad. Lots of people are having a really tough time so if we're missing out on a bit of footie and not being able to shake a few hands on the way out, it's not as bad as what others have had."

RA is hopeful of getting a domestic rugby competition started - similar to Super Rugby Aotearoa in New Zealand - in July involving the current four franchises, along with the Western Force.

Rugby: Incoming Wallabies coach Dave Rennie braced for challenges, as Glasgow reign comes to an end