New Wallabies coach Dave Rennie stops short of guaranteeing Michael Hooper captaincy


Rennie, who arrives in Australia next month, has been in close contact with Australian rugby’s highest-paid player.

Asked whether he wanted Hooper as captain or if a new leader was necessary, Rennie said it would be some time before a call is made.

“We haven’t spoken about captaincy at all,” Rennie said on Monday. “I have spoken to Hoops a lot on various things. All we’ve talked about it is earning the right to play, so it’s about playing well enough to win the jersey and then we’ll sort out who the captain is going to be.

“Clearly he’s not doing it at the Waratahs and it’s been good for his game. To be honest I think he’s played really well. He’s still leading, he just hasn’t got the ‘c’ next to his name.

“He’s a strong contender for captain but we haven’t firmed up any decisions around that and we’ll work out what the team is first and then we’ll select a captain. There’s lots of good leaders within that group.”

Allan Alaalatoa, Matt Toomua and Dane Haylett-Petty have been flagged as other possible options but many of Australia’s best players at the recent World Cup won’t be eligible due to retirement or playing abroad without 60 Test caps to their name.

New Wallabies coach Dave Rennie in Sydney in January.

New Wallabies coach Dave Rennie in Sydney in January.Credit:Getty

On the issue of selection, which was brought into the spotlight last week following Michael O’Connor’s scathing criticism of coach Michael Cheika during 2019, Rennie said a selection panel was yet to be confirmed but made it clear he was happy for director of rugby Scott Johnson to be involved.

“I have no problems with Johnno being part of that process,” Rennie said. “I think our ability to justify our selections [with] someone maybe slightly removed from the group is not a bad thing. How I’ve done it in the past is a real group decision.”

Super Rugby AU kicks off next Friday with the NSW Waratahs taking on the Queensland Reds in Brisbane.

Weekly Australian derbies will provide an excellent opportunity for Rennie to critically run his eye over the best candidates for a gold jersey later in the year.

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“The next three months is a great opportunity for players,” Rennie said. “The positive side of no footy since March is I’ve done an enormous amount of work with the other staff and a chance to do a lot of homework.

“There are almost trials every week which is exciting from my perspective. I’ve been involved in all the meetings around the new law variations and things we’ve come up with we believe have a chance of being adopted by the rest of the world. It’s not just a case of throwing stuff in to make it more entertaining – we want to make sure the DNA of the game is still there.”

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