Dave Rennie has refused to blame the inexperience of his playmakers for his Wallabies’ record loss to the All Blacks in the Tri-Nations opener but admits there was a gulf in class between the two teams in Sydney.
Injuries forced Rennie to hand first caps to Noah Lolesio at flyhalf and Irae Simone at inside centre on Saturday. But the new coach, overseeing his third game, said inaccuracy throughout the whole team – not rookie errors – was behind the 43-5 defeat.
“We’re not going to use that as an excuse,” he said. “We prepared well, you just can’t the ball over as often as we did. We got caught pushing passes. What we talked about at half time was just trying to build some pressure and for 20 minutes we actually played really well.
“But 20 minutes of competitive footy is nowhere near enough against the All Blacks. There was certainly a gulf between the two performances tonight.”
Rennie said he expected James O’Connor to be fit to return at flyhalf next week against the All Blacks in Brisbane but was not about to blame 20-year-old Lolesio for the performance.
“He’ll be happy to get one under his belt,” he said. “He didn’t have a hell of a lot of front-foot ball, did he? He’ll learn a lot from that. We’ll assess things when we see how [O’Connor] bounces back but we’re not going to throw Noah under the bus.”
Saturday’s defeat on top of a draw and a loss in two tests between the teams earlier this month means Australia will have to wait at least another year to win back the Bledisloe Cup, which New Zealand have held since 2003.
Rennie was asked what hope he could offer to long-suffering Wallabies fans after so many years of heavy defeats to their fiercest rugby rivals.
“We’re five or six weeks into a four-year campaign,” he said. “We’re gutted about the result and I must admit in Wellington before the first game I was nervous about an All Black performance that would find us under pressure but we showed a lot of character that night (in a 16-16 draw).”
“All I can say is we’re going to keep working hard, we think we’ve got some good kids coming through. We need to respond immediately and the plan is you’ll see that next week.”