Five Melbourne Rebels have been named in Dave Rennie’s new look Wallabies side for the opening Bledisloe Test against the All Blacks in Wellington on Sunday.
Matt To’omua (inside centre), Marika Koroibete (left wing) and reigning Rebels Players’ Player, Matt Philip (lock), have all been selected in the starting XV, while Reece Hodge and Jordan Uelese will come off the bench.
With the opening Test just days away, here are some of the highlights from this morning's press conference with Wallabies Head Coach, Dave Rennie.
Where can this Wallabies side attack the All Blacks?
Look there’s not a lot of weaknesses there but as I mentioned you’re going to have to defend really well and for long passages of the game. We need to be really aggressive to try and force them to kick or to try and turnover some pill. The quality of our decision making and the quality of our skill under pressure is going to be important. We’ve got a plan, but to beat a side like this we’re going to have to play really well.
The sides that have beaten them have defended really well, so we can’t get away from that. We’ve put a lot of time into our defence, but it has to be constant. With the ability of the All Blacks to score in a heartbeat or score twice in five minutes, we’re well aware of the threats there.
Matt Philip makes his long-awaited return back onto the international stage. How impressive has he been during camp and touch on his importance come Sunday?
He’s gone really well – he’s a bit of a lineout nerd and you have to be when you run those things, so his detail and understanding around our lineout has been great and he’s made really big shifts around the quality of his carry, so he has the ability to create and go forward for us. He’s gone well and he deserves his spot and he’ll play an important part on Sunday.
At last year’s World Cup, the Wallabies carried an unapologetic approach to ‘living and dying by the sword.’ Do you anticipate a different style of play with this new side?
Definitely. The mindset of never kicking makes it easy to defend – you put fourteen in the front line and you squeeze teams defensively, so we’ve got to be able to shape their defences through our smart kicking options. Being prepared to play but if the picture changes, being prepared to kick from wide channels or put up contested balls. That’s the side of the game we’ve put a lot of time into and our challenge is now doing that under the blowtorch on Sunday.
In your back three, Tom Banks has a lot of experience kicking but Marika Koroibete and Filipo Daugunu do not - is this something you've had them working on during training camp?
We have [had them practising kicking]. Filipo is actually a very good kicker of the ball – you probably haven’t seen him kick a lot but he’s from a football background, so he’s a really natural striker of the ball. Marika has a shorter kicking game, but it’s been an area he’s been working on, because it’s important to us to have a variety of guys who can kick and shape the defence. If it’s only a 9 or a 10 to kick, then it’s pretty easy to shut down. Obviously, Matt To’omua’s got a strong kicking game; we’ve got that with Tom; Hunter (Paisami) has a strong kicking game and we’ve been working on our wingers to do the same.
This team has only been together for a short period of time. With a new playing style and new personnel, are you anticipating a challenging start come Sunday?
I would love for it to be really polished on Sunday but there’s no doubt, the more time we spend together, the better we’ll get. We’ve made the most of the time we’ve had together. Obviously when there was talk about fourteen days without training as a team that would’ve been difficult. We’ve had three days where we were locked up, but the last eleven we’ve been able to work on things and like I said, we’ve made the most of the time.
Staying at Hunter Valley for the first five days was really crucial around creating a culture, doing a lot of team building, spending time together and starting to implement structures. We’ve done all we can do and we’re conscious we can’t feed them with too much because their heads will be spinning on the weekend, so we’ll grow our game over time. We know it’s not going to be perfect but what we need to see is the attitude and the work ethic. We know we need to be physical because the All Blacks will have that mindset.
Starting XV (Position 1-15): James Slipper, Folau Fainga'a, Taniela Tupou, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Matt Philip, Harry Wilson, Michael Hooper, Pete Samu, Nic White, James O'Connor, Marika Koroibete, Matt To'omua, Hunter Paisami, Filipo Daugunu, Tom Banks.
Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Rob Valetini, Jake Gordon, Noah Lolesio, Reece Hodge
The First Test of the 2020 Bledisloe Cup between the Wallabies and the All Blacks kicks off at Sky Stadium, Wellington on Sunday 11 October, beginning at 2:00pm AEDT. Live coverage on Fox Sports and Channel 10.