Under pressure coach Dave Rennie defended making mass changes to his team after the Wallabies were stunned in a historic 28-27 loss to Italy in Florence on Sunday (AEDT).
After a heartbreaking loss to France, Rennie made a whopping 11 changes to his starting XV when then became 12 as lock Nick Frost was ruled out on match eve.
“We didn’t plan to make that many,” Rennie told Stan Sport as the Azzurri celebrated.
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“We lost two or three guys from the French game. We had a good enough side to win tonight. We had a lot confidence in those guys and they prepared well. We didn’t play well enough.”
But that didn’t wash for Wallabies great Drew Mitchell, who nearly lost his voice after watching the horror show unfold.
Italy is ranked 12th in the world and finished last in this year’s Six Nations.
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”To me it goes back to 12 changes,” Mitchell said on Stan Sport.
“Subconsciously it gives you the mindset that you’re expected to win this. That was poor coaching. Seventh in the world, you’re not in a position to make 12 changes.”
Again discipline was a major problem for the Wallabies who conceded 16 penalties to Italy’s nine.
Italy also punished the Wallabies by scoring early tries to Pierre Bruno and Ange Capuozzo while halfback Jake Gordon was in the sinbin for a a late shoulder hit.
Former Wallaby Morgan Turinui said Rennie should always be under pressure as an international coach but still felt he was the right man for the job.
Rennie is contracted through to next year’s Rugby World Cup.
“Twelve changes but I look at that team and it’s good enough to beat Italy,” Turinui said on Stan Sport.
“I don’t think he’s going anywhere. I’m impressed with a lot of the work he’s done.
“I don’t see an obvious, better solution. It’s all well and good to talk about changes but you’ve got to have a better viable solution. I think Dave Rennie’s doing a fine job with the players he has… as hard as it is, wanting to see the Wallabies do well – this is a momentous occasion for Italy.”
Australia is now 1-2 on their European tour with world No.1 Ireland next up on Sunday (AEDT).
They were lucky to beat Scotland after Blair Kinghorn missed a late kick and, ironically, by far their best performance on tour came in the loss to world No.2 France in Paris.
Former Wallaby Justin Harrison said there was no lack of commitment from a revamped lineup but they struggled to gel as a collective unit.
“No-one walks into a Test arena without absolute intent to meet the opponent with everything you’ve got,” Harrison said on Stan Sport.
“The difficulty tonight was 12 of those players haven’t played much Test rugby together – they weren’t good at finding a solution together under extreme pressure.”
A problematic lack of consistency continues.
“It’s peaks and troughs from the Wallabies… but let’s not forget this Italian side played extremely well tonight,” Harrison said.
“They (the Wallabies) were part of history that they didn’t want to be and they’ll take that for the rest of their lives.”
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