Rennie defends Giteau Law experiment as Wales clash looms

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie defended his use of Giteau Law exemptions as Australia looks to finish the Test season on a winning note against Wales this weekend.

Rennie came under fire this week for using a more relaxed approach to offshore Test eligibility to bolster the Wallabies’ playing stocks.

Dave Rennie says he is happy with the selection decisions he has made under a more relaxed Giteau Law principle.Credit:AP

He drafted in eight overseas-based players, only two of whom – Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale – met the 60-Test criteria for selection under the so-called Giteau Law.

The experiment drew mixed results and attracted criticism and a warning from powerful state-based powerbrokers. Queensland Rugby Union general manager Sam Cordingley said Australian rugby was in danger of giving players too much power to pick and choose when they were available and hurting Super Rugby.

As he woke up in Cardiff to announce four changes to the Test line up to face Wales on Saturday, Rennie said he was keeping the jersey front and centre of decision-making.

“It’s what we’ve said too. We don’t want guys to pick and choose when they want to be Wallabies. There were some hiccups with the guys in Japan,” Rennie said, referring to Suntory duo Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon and Kintetsu playmaker Quade Cooper, who withdrew from the tour in an embarrassing episode for Rugby Australia.

“Hopefully that encourages some guys to come home and strengthen our Super Rugby and make these decisions easier…”

“Sam’s entitled to his opinion. A few of the guys he was referring to were ex-Reds, he’s had a bit to do with them.”

Four of Rennie’s match day squad named to face Wales were overseas-based, with only starting fullback Beale eligible under the 60-Test rule. Hooker Tolu Latu was handed his first start since 2019, Rory Arnold will start in the second row and Will Skelton will come off the bench. All play in France.

Rennie said he was happy with the balance of selections during the season, given COVID-19 interruptions and the damaging episode with Cooper, McMahon and Kerevi.

“We made decisions based on what was happening at the time. It was disappointing the three boys in Japan couldn’t join us, because that would have made it a lot more seamless but it is what it is,” he said.

France-based players Rory Arnold, Tolu Latu and Will Skelton were all named in Australia’s match squad to face Wales this weekend.Credit:Getty

“We’ve had guys come in who we might not have expected to. Ollie Hoskins last week, for example. We could have brought over another tight head but Pone [Fa’mausili] pulled out right at the death and we decided not to replace him. The next likely candidates they were out injured as well with [Harry] Johnson-Holmes [injured] as well.

“We’ll review the season at the end but we’re reasonably happy with the decisions we made, we’re happy with the guys we’ve [brought] in. We’ve certainly given those guys a taste of what our culture is about and I know they’ve really enjoyed it, so hopefully that encourages some guys to come home and strengthen our Super Rugby and make these decisions easier, because they’re part of Super Rugby.”

Latu was one of four changes made to the starting line up that lost to England last week.

Wrecking ball prop Taniela Tupou will start at No.3, while Allan Alaalatoa will return via the bench.

Both props sat out Australia’s Test against England under concussion protocols and were sorely missed as the Wallabies succumbed to England, their second straight loss in Europe.

Arnold and Izack Rodda partner again in the second row, with Skelton on the bench. Brumbies back-rower Pete Samu will start at No.7 with captain Michael Hooper out with an ankle injury and NSW hard man Lachlan Swinton has been recalled as back row cover.

Rennie said Latu’s skill over the ball would help fill the gap left by Hooper’s departure.

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“We think he’ll give us a bit of an edge physically, in particular with Hoops (Hooper) not playing. Having an on-ball presence at No.2 will complement what Pete Samu can give us. That was a big part of the thinking.”

Nic White and James O’Connor will start together again in the halves and Kurtley Beale again at fullback, with Hunter Paisami and Len Ikitau getting another start in the centres.

Filipo Daugunu has been named to start on the wing with Andrew Kellaway retaining his spot on the other side, and Tom Wright dropping back to the bench. Wright was named alongside reserve halfback Tate McDermott and Waratahs’ centre Lalakai Foketi, who has been with the squad all year and is in line for his Test debut.

Australia (1-15): James Slipper (c), Tolu Latu, Taniela Tupou, Rory Arnold, Izack Rodda, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Rob Valetini; Nic White, James O’Connor, Filipo Daugunu, Hunter Paisami, Len Ikitau, Andrew Kellaway, Kurtley Beale. Res: Allan Alaalatoa, Angus Bell, Folau Fainga’a, Will Skelton, Lachlan Swinton, Tate McDermott, Lalakai Foketi, Tom Wright.

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