The Michael Cheika vs Eddie Jones storyline was one of the best in international rugby.
Two old Randwick warhorses who couldn’t crack Test jerseys as players but reached the pinnacle of the game as canny coaches.
The pre-match mind games gave the media and rugby audience plenty to chew over but on the pitch it was one-way traffic for Jones after the 2015 World Cup.
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Jones had a field day on England’s last tour of Australia, in 2016, sweeping the series 3-0 and bursting the Wallabies bubble.
Now it’s Dave Rennie’s turn to defend home turf for a three Test series in July.
But don’t expect the Kiwi to start any unnecessary verbal jousting against an England side smarting from a fifth place finish in the Six Nations.
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“Everyone wants to make a big deal out of a rivalry but I think it was different with Sheik and Eddie,” Rennie told Stan Sport’s Rugby Heaven on Thursday.
“They’ve got history, played together and my association with Eddie has normally been over a beer or an IRANZ (International Rugby Academy) course in New Zealand type of thing. So I like him. Hugely experienced, he’s been coaching international footy before (Wallabies prop) Angus Bell was born.
“He’s really well resourced, he’ll bring a good side over and it’ll be a helluva series.”
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Rennie will name his squad on Nine’s Sports Sunday.
Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete have already been confirmed as his three overseas-based picks.
“There’s no real bolter but some good players have missed out,” Rennie said.
“I reckon we’re better conditioned and you’re seeing that in the Super Rugby teams. Our game awareness has also improved and that’s been massive for us.”
Rennie had positive injury updates on Taniela Tupou, James O’Connor and Izaia Perese, saying the latter two would have played this weekend had their teams been alive in the Super Rugby Pacific semi finals.
Rennie said Waratahs center Perese was “unstoppable” prior to his injury.
“Lightning, very quick and destructive, powerful player. He’s in a good place and is confident and ready to go.”
Rennie was happy that Jordan Petaia had got some game time at fullback for the Reds and saw the rising star as an option anywhere in the back three.
“Probably as good as anyone in the world aerially. Back three, I like three fullbacks on the field. He’s a unique player who gives us genuine versatility.”
As does Waratahs forward Jed Holloway, who looks set to make the cut on Sunday.
“We probably see him more as a 6/8,” Rennie said.
“He’s been excellent, nice skills, runs great lines. He’s been impressive.”
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Rennie also said he was a fan of the 20 minute red card rule which has been used in Super Rugby.
He was involved on a World Rugby working group and had pushed unsuccessfully for it to be implemented in the Test arena.
“What we want is 15 v 15. I’d hate to see a World Cup decision because of a decision that was inaccurate. Some of them think it’s not enough consequence but there’s genuine consequences.”
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