Wallabies not out to entertain in Tri Nations finale

Rugby

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie says he feels no obligation for his side to entertain in Saturday’s Tri Nations finale, instead setting his sights on a “quality performance” to round out his first season in charge.

Australia face Argentina at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday night, the Tri Nations crown all but out of reach for both sides given the size of victory they require to steal the trophy away from the All Blacks.

The Wallabies only have themselves to blame for that predicament after they blew a 15-6 lead against the South Americans a fortnight ago when a victory would have left them needing only a win – rather than a huge bonus-point win – on Saturday to unseat the All Blacks from top spot.

Australia instead finished with a dour 15-all draw that was largely panned across the local sports community for its lack of entertaining play and even a single try, the viewing experience tough to defend for even the purist of rugby fans.

But the response has had little effect on Rennie who just wants to see his side capitalise on the opportunities they do create at Bankwest Stadium and that will hopefully carry them to just a second win from his first six Tests.

“I suppose it’s how you look at games, isn’t it? We dominated a big chunk of that first half [against Argentina], we created lots of scoring opportunities, but we didn’t score tries,” Rennie replied when asked whether he felt the obligation to entertain.

“What we’re trying to do is grow our understanding of how to win games and you get into games, especially with northern hemisphere sides that won’t play enormous amounts of footy, and you’ve got to find ways of winning. And sometimes that’s through smart kicking options that create opportunities to attack.

“We definitely want to play and we’ve certainly tried to grow our game around our skill set, but I think we’ve got an obligation to put in a quality performance, not necessarily entertain by throwing the ball all over the place at the risk of losing the game.”

While the All Blacks finished with a late flourish in their 38-0 win over Argentina, with Will Jordan scoring a double and Patrick Tuipulotu adding a further five-pointer inside the final 15 minutes, the Tri Nations has largely been dominated by defence.

It follows a similar script up north where the Autumn Nations Cup has been lashed for its lack of enterprising play and entertainment value, with some pundits saying the game had reached a critical point in its existence and World Rugby had to act on the game’s lawbook.

The caterpillar ruck, which the Wallabies have used in the Tri Nations, is just one example of seemingly negative play which invokes the ire of fans.

England coach Eddie Jones this week defended the state of the game however, saying it would soon move to another cycle where attack could again be king, while Rennie said open attacking rugby could still thrive in the face of water-tight defences.

“Defences are good up there, and there’s a lot of emphasis put on it,” he said. “And as we’ve seen in this competition, too, when teams have defended well it creates opportunities to attack, so we’ve got a real mindset around “defence score” and that’s probably pretty common in this part of the world.

“But there’s no reason why even with good defensive sides you can’t play good footy; it’s the quality of the carry, the speed of the cleanout to generate quicker ball [that you need]. If they’re able to get two in a tackle and give you slow ball it’s hard to find holes within that wall.

“We created enough opportunities to win well last time and didn’t, so we’ve got to be better. And we’ve looked at how we’re coaching and looked at our decision-making and we want to see that reflected on Saturday.”

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