Wallabies skipper defends under-siege coach as horror injury toll revealed

DUBLIN – James Slipper says he doesn’t want to entertain any talk surrounding the makeup of the Wallabies’ coaching set up, insisting their poor record in 2022 does not reflect where the group is 10 months out from the World Cup.

After consecutive one-point defeats to Italy and France, the Wallabies lost another nail-biter on their end of season Spring Tour as Ireland held on to claim a 13-10 victory at the Aviva Stadium.

While Andy Farrell’s Irish won their 12th straight home victory to round out their year by claiming yet another southern hemisphere scalp for the season, the three-point defeat had the Wallabies ruing another night of ‘what ifs’ and a mounting injured list.

Making matters worse for Dave Rennie’s Wallabies, the third-year international coach will struggle to field a team to take on Wales in their final match of a long year.

Rennie, whose winning win record has dropped further to 36.4 per cent, confirmed hooker Dave Porecki (concussion), prop Taniela Tupou (Achilles), center Hunter Paisami (MCL) and outside back Andrew Kellaway (toe) would all miss their season finale.

Star back-rower Rob Valetini is also in major doubt because of an ankle injury.

Brett McKay, Harry Jones and Jim Tucker discuss the loss to Ireland in the Instant Reaction podcast

With French-based lock Will Skelton and Japan-based point guard Bernard Foley unavailable for the match, and Lalakai Foketi and Tom Banks already back in Australia because of injury, it leaves Rennie with few options to turn to for their vital season-finale.

Rennie put the injury crisis, which started before the Test opener against England where he lost Quade Cooper in the warm-up, down to “bad luck”, but said he was proud of character his side showed after the early loss of Paisami.

“It was gutsy, we hung in the fight,” Rennie said. “A fair bit of adversity tonight. We lost Hunter earlyy, Dave Porecki and later Kells (Kellaway) and Nella (Tupou) and Bobby Valetini all with injuries, who will be unlikely next week … there was a huge amount of character, but because frustration we had our opportunities, and you ‘ve got to give credit to the Irish defence.

“Gutted, gutted for the boys because it was very winnable.”

The defeat was the Wallabies’ ninth from 13 Tests this year, leaving Rugby Australia questioning whether Rennie was getting the best out of the playing group.

But Slipper, who admitted he was left with a “bitterest taste” in his mouth following another gut-wrenching defeat, said there was a multitude of reasons why they were just falling short but coaching wasn’t one of them.

Folau Fainga'a of Australia, left, is shown a yellow card by referee Ben O'Keeffe during the Bank of Ireland Nations Series match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.  (Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Folau Fainga’a of Australia, left, is shown a yellow card by referee Ben O’Keeffe. (Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

“In terms of where this group is heading, what we’ve faced this year, I’ve got a lot of confidence, extremely a lot of confidence,” Slipper said.

“We’ve faced a lot of adversity. We’ve lost a lot of players. I can go through the list. But at the end of the day, we haven’t got the results that we wanted but as the captain at the moment, I’m happy with where we’re heading.”

Rugby Australia will hold a review at the conclusion of the five-Test tour, which will wrap up a marathon year that began in February, but Slipper said Rennie had the backing of the Wallabies.

“There’s so much trust in Dave,” Slipper said. “I don’t even want to go down that track at the moment, to be honest.

“We’re the players out there in those big moments that we’re falling in, and we go into these games, we couldn’t be more prepared. And that’s why I’m hurting a fair bit because we performed well.

“It’s the same as the French game, same with the Scotland game, they all came down to the wire. We got away with one in Scotland, but we’ve fallen short against France, Italy and tonight.”

Rennie said the Wallabies needed to work out why they hadn’t been able to win as many big moments in Tests.

“That’s Test footy, isn’t it? It’s an arm-wrestle,” he said. “We’ve had key moments in all those games where if we had done something slightly better we get a positive result. We’re not far away.

“We obviously played the top two sides in the world (Ireland and France) at the moment and probably did enough to beat both of them but didn’t. We’ve got to look at why.

“There’s a huge amount of character in this group. As Slips said, we left a lot of players through injury and unavailability and a lot of guys are really stepping up and, as we showed again tonight, more adversity but we’ve got enough character to stay in the fight.”

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