Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has shouldered the blame for the team’s shoddy counter-attack during the 2-1 Ella-Mobbs Cup series loss to England.
Rennie identified that aspect of the game as one of Australia’s biggest areas for improvement after having nearly a week to lick wounds and rue missed opportunities following England’s clinching win at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“We’ve put a lot of time into it over the last couple of years so that was the disappointing part about it,” Rennie said after naming his Rugby Championship squad for Argentina.
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“We knew we were going to get a lot of ball kicked to us and if we worked hard for each other and got people in the right spots we were confident we could hurt them.
“And while we found space to counter at the weekend and did some good things we left a lot of opportunities on the park. It’s an area of the game that I drive so it’s my responsibility. We’ve just got to be better.
“You get opportunities where teams turn the ball over or they kick the ball without a quality kick-chase or kick-sprint – we’ve got to be able to identify that and hurt teams. It was an area that was pretty disappointing over the three Tests.”
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Rennie described the review process as “frustrating” overall as the focus now shifts for back-to-back Tests against Michael Cheika’s Pumas, starting on August 7 (AEST) in Mendoza.
“We did some really good things and then maybe the last bit of skill wasn’t good enough, and ended up letting us down. That was frustrating and we missed a lot of opportunities from turnover and counter to do the obvious. We have fielded a kick and had big numbers to play but we hit it up and that’s given England time to re-group and cover the field a bit more, or cover the backfield space.
“We missed opportunities in all three Tests around counter and it is an area we need to make shifts in. It was a hell of a Test series against a very good side but we are frustrated because we should have been better, and we should have won it.”
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Rennie’s winning percentage has now dropped to 39 but Rugby Australia continues to back him through to next year’s World Cup in France.
There remains uncertainty as to who will wear the fullback jersey after it proved a poisoned chalice against England.
Top two picks Tom Banks and Andrew Kellaway remain injured while the third choice, Jordan Petaia, is available again after getting concussed in the second Test at Suncorp Stadium.
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That presumably leaves him as the likeliest starter at 15 in Mendoza after Reece Hodge filled in with mixed results at the SCG.
Hodge remains in the squad while Tom Wright and the uncapped Jock Campbell are other options.
“We really miss Andrew Kellaway as a back three player and we are keen to have guys who can play wing and fullback in that back three,” Rennie said.
“We have got options. Jordy is coming back from a head knock, he is good to go. I guess any further knock to that would see him out for long term.
“I thought Tom Wright, when he got his opportunity at 15, was outstanding in the second Test so it is exciting from that point of view… We will allow the players to make that decision and hopefully injury doesn’t dictate that. “
Meanwhile, Cheika included captain Julian Montoya and first-choice halves Tomas Cubelli and Nicolas Sanchez in his squad to play the Wallabies.
Hooker Montoya missed the series-clinching third Test win over Scotland with a back injury while Cubelli and Sanchez both suffered muscle tears in the first Test.
Cheika has also recalled prop Santiago Medrano, loose forward Joaquin Oviedo and center Lucas Mensa, while second rower Guido Petti and winger Bautista Delguy are being rested for the opening two rounds.
Argentina squad to host the Wallabies: Julian Montoya (c), Matias Alemanno, Lautaro Bazan Velez, Gonzalo Bertranou, Emiliano Boffelli, Rodrigo Bruni, Santiago Carreras, Lucio Cinti, Santiago Cordero, Agustin Creevy, Tomas Cubelli, Jerome de la Fuente, Thomas Gallo, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Santiago Grondona, Juan Imhoff, Facundo Isa, Marcos Kremer, Tomas Lavanini, Juan Cruz Mallia, Pablo Matera, Santiago Medrano, Lucas Mensa, Matias Moroni, Matias Orlando, Joaquin Oviedo, Lucas Paulos, Ignacio Ruiz, Nicolas Sanchez, Joel Sclavi, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Benjamin Urdapilleta, Mayco Vivas
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