The heat is slowly building on Dave Rennie, but ahead of Saturday’s clash against the Springboks in Adelaide senior Wallabies prop Allan Alaalatoa says the playing group has “got to be accountable” after their horror last-start.
From spilling balls to falling off tackles, the Wallabies were dreadful against Michael Cheika’s Los Pumas in Argentina earlier this month as they slumped to a record 48-17 defeat in San Juan. Defence coach Matt Taylor paid the price for the sorry loss, as he was pushed to the side paving the way for highly respected mentor Laurie Fisher to join the national team.
The disappointing loss came after a character-filled bonus-point victory in Mendoza a week earlier, where the Wallabies managed to come out the other side of a difficult week which included the sudden withdrawal of captain Michael Hooper.
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Since regrouping on the Gold Coast on Sunday evening there has been an edge on and off the field about the Wallabies.
The Wallabies have been given a rocket in recent times and the players are now well aware that enough is enough.
“I think it’s more the boys are pretty gutted after the last game,” said Alaalatoa, who was one of a handful of starters who missed the Test in Argentina.
“We spoke about it as players, we thought we had the right game plan in place from the coaches but we just weren’t good enough as players to put on the field – and that’s our job. We’ve got to be accountable on that front.
“We had some tough conversations yesterday in review but it’s all for us to get better and apply this weekend.
“We’ve had some great additions into camp, a bit of experience which has been awesome, we just had a sour taste in our mouth after the last game and, unfortunately, we went on break so the boys were probably thinking about it a long time.
“Everyone has turned up this morning in one of our big training sessions and had that edge so that’s a good feeling for our preparation this morning.”
Alaalatoa is expected to come straight into the squad following his withdrawal for personal reasons, with Taniela Tupou set to come off the bench.
How the duo fare against the Springboks’ “bomb squad” could well shape the Test, with the set-piece always the litmus test against any South African side.
It also shapes as a crunch match for Tupou, who has been underwhelming since returning from injury for the second Test against England last month.
Meanwhile, Andrew Kellaway has declared himself fit to return and is the favourite to snare the No.15 jersey after missing the past four Tests because of a hamstring injury.
But it shapes as a difficult first-up assignment, with the Springboks likely to pepper the Wallabies’ three after their horror showing in San Juan.
While Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley have re-joined the squad, neither are expected to take any part against the Springboks.
Kellaway said their returns had given the squad a boost.
“They’re big personalities, both of them,” Kellaway said.
“Kurtley brings his infectious laugh everywhere he goes. He’s firstly bringing the morale up, like he’s one of those guys who pumps everyone up around him and that’s a really good thing.
“They’re both coming back with their own experiences from France and Japan and trying to impart that experience on a few of the younger guys and the older guys but, for the most part, having them around I think makes everybody else feel really confident.”
Meanwhile, reports of scrum clocks and law changes around the deliberate knockdown in future Super Rugby seasons rule were met with mixed reception.
Although Alaalatoa acknowledged the importance of making the game as attractive as possible, he said it would have to be eased into the game because of the dangers of injury.
“As players we understand we need to put something in place to make it more attractive to the crowd,” he said.
“If that’s the way that we need to change the game, then we need to implement that first at training or at least take a year to practice that (because) if we don’t get it right someone will get injured.”
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Kellaway, however, said he would be “filthy” about the proposed law changes being thought of for the Super Rugby Pacific season.
“We’ve gotta be careful, don’t we?” Kellaway said.
“It’s a niche area of the game where you’ve got guys doing a specialist skill.
“Outside backs, everybody else, we’re asking these blokes to compress a spine for a living. And someone in a suit has the nerve to ask them to hurry up. If I was Al, which I’m not fortunately, I’d be pretty filthy about that.
“I think there’s so many other areas we can pick up in the game. The breakdown is another one before we have to start going picking on the scrum.”
Kellaway meanwhile supported changes to the way the deliberate knockdown laws were officiated, and added that a proposed draft would only benefit the game.
“A little bit of discretion would be nice,” he said. “I don’t agree with it. I don’t make the rules, we just got to deal with it. We have to be better at adapting to that and playing to those rules, unfortunately until they change if they ever do.
He added: “The biggest strength rugby union has as a game, in my eyes, is the fact that it’s played all around the world. And we need to shout that from the rooftops, so if we can get something like that going on where we can transfer guys a little bit closer to home then absolutely.”