Dave Rennie says the Wallabies can take “confidence” out of their heartbreaking loss to the All Blacks but says they must “back it up” despite the Bledisloe Cup being lost for a 20th campaign.
A controversial decision to award the All Blacks a free kick in the final minute of the game after Bernard Foley took 39 seconds to kick for touch from a penalty on his own goal line.
From the scrum, the All Blacks scored a try in the corner to seal the match 39-37 and move to an unassailable 1-0 series lead before their clash next week at Eden Park.
The decision was met with widespread condemnation given the law of time-wasting is seldom officiated from any place on the field, particularly from a penalty.
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Former Wallabies star Matt Giteau labelled it the “worst decision” he had seen, while two-time World Cup-winner Tim Horan said the call was a “disgrace” and something he had never seen during his three decade association with the game at the top.
Rennie agreed, saying he had never “seen a decision like that at any level” and believed French referee Mathieu Raynal didn’t show the game understanding required at the time.
“You know the rule’s there, but there are plenty of rules that I believe aren’t ruled on throughout the game – there’s that many rules.
“I think you’ve got to have a feel, a feel for the game and the situation,” he said.
“And so if you feel a team’s wasting time then stop the clock, and then they kick it out, and then you play the game and the teams decide it. So just a real lack of feel for the situation.”
All Blacks veteran Sam Whitelock admitted he had never seen the law policed but coach Ian Foster said the decision was “clear cut”.
“I thought it was very clear cut,” he said. “They were delaying the kick. He said time off.
“He warned him then he said time off and then he said to speed up then he said time on. Then he asked him twice to kick it.
“I understand there is a contentious nature about it but it was very clear cut from the opposition.”
The Wallabies now have nine days to prepare for their final Rugby Championship clash in Auckland next weekend.
Rennie said it was vital the Wallabies back up their character-filled performance by showing they can match it with the All Blacks again.
“We’ll lick our wounds, we can certainly take confidence from that, but you’ve got to back that up,” he said.
“It would’ve been nice to go to Auckland with the chance of coming away with some silverware, that’s not the case unfortunately, but it’s still a big game for us and we’ll front.”
What changes Rennie makes could be determined by injuries, particularly in the front-row, with James Slipper at long-odds to play after being forced off at half-time with a calf injury.
“I’d have to get it scanned, I’m not too sure actually,” he said.
“I’ve never done a calf before so fingers crossed, I’d love to play.”
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Helping Rennie is that Angus Bell is likely to be fit while Taniela Tupou, who injured his calf in a warm-up during the Springboks defeat earlier this month, could also be fit.
Inside centre Hunter Paisami and playmaker Noah Lolesio are also likely to be available, with the duo ruled out of the two-point Test because of concussions.
But whether either play remains to be seen, with Foley impressing in his return from a three-year Test exile while Lalakai Foketi was strong in his second Test start.
“I thought he (Foley) was sensational,” Rennie said.
“Controlled the game really well, his goal-kicking was exceptional. He’s just very confident, he gives a lot of confidence to people around him, good energy and voice, a real positive mindset.
“Down 31-13 it’s easy to start thinking it’s going to be a tough finish to the game but he kept encouraging us to play and play at the right part of the field.”
He was not the only one to star, with fullback Andrew Kellaway and flanker Pete Samu impressing.
Kellaway looks set for a long stay in the No.15 jersey after grabbing his chance by scoring two tries.
Kellaway, particularly, looks set for a long stay in the No.15 jersey after grabbing his chance by scoring two tries and looking at home at the back of the field.
“I think Pete Samu has been one of our best players even though he comes off the bench each week, he’s been outstanding,” Rennie said.
“We’ve talked a number of times about starting him, but his impact has been excellent off the bench.
“We just felt he was going to give us physicality, and he’s got a game both sides of the ball, he was outstanding.
“And Kells got over the line three times today, one he didn’t get down but he’ll just get better and better at 15.
“He’s a hell of a player, he’s got a real complete skill set and it was nice to see him in a bit of space today.
“He wore the 15 tonight, he wore it well, chances are he’ll wear it again next week.
“We always talk about earning the right to play, we’d like to stick and build some combinations and a couple of injuries last game meant we couldn’t do that, but other people have stood up and taken their opportunities, pleasing from that point of view.”