Dave Rennie: 'Don't understand' resistance to red-card replacement trial

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is disappointed the red-card replacement trial will not be adopted in international rugby, saying he "can't understand" the northern hemisphere's resistance to it.

World Rugby is poised to green light both the 50/22 and goal-line dropout variations that have been used in Super Rugby AU over the past two years. Super Rugby Aotearoa also had the goal-line dropout trial, but did not have the 50/22 law, with the same scenario in play for the recent Trans-Tasman series which concluded over the weekend with the Blues defeating the Highlanders in Auckland.

But the red-card replacement, which sees the offending player removed from the game completely but whose team is able to introduce a substitute after 20 minutes, has been rejected with both England and France officials reportedly not in favour of the trial.

Speaking from Wallabies camp on the Gold Coast, where Australia is dealing with several injury concerns ahead of the first Test with France, Rennie confirmed he was happy to see the 50/22 kick and goal-line dropout trials extended to the international arena from Aug. 1.  

"I think the 50/22 it's a good rule but mainly because it's not so much just kicking into the corner and getting in advantage from that, it means teams have got to defend it," Rennie said. "And if you've got more backfield cover then maybe there's more space to attack in, so I like that and I think that's been a good addition to our comp.

"The goal line dropout, I guess historically you could have had multiple scrums and a lot of the game is chewed up from that. And the advantage of kicking from there as opposed to a 22, you generally kick out to halfway and the team who catches is generally attacking and we get on with the game, rather than maybe kicking to the opposition 22 and then the ball goes up in the air and you get a bit of volleyball happening. So I see real positives around both those laws.

"We'd like to see the red-card remain at 20 minutes, as we've seen especially with some decisions that are made they can have a massive impact on the game and maybe post game are viewed as not as serious. At least with 20 minutes you can even the numbers up again, so disappointed that's not going to be trialled from a World Rugby perspective but we're happy with the other two."

Research conducted on the red-card replacement trial in Super Rugby AU by ESPN earlier this year found that there had been seven dangerous contract red cards issued in the tournament, leading to just a one-point cumulative differential across the separate incidents when they had occurred before the 60th minute mark.

The trial was brought in so as not to completely ruin contests with the offending player out of the game and later dealt with via a judicial process.

Reports out of the northern hemisphere suggest English and French administrators believe the trial was not sufficient enough of a deterrent to stop players engaging in foul play.

Given the difference in decision-making even between the Australian and New Zealand officials in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, and how some of those incidents have been received up north, Rennie's disappointment at the trial not being brought in for the international calendar is understandable.

"I think it had enormous support it the southern hemisphere and not the northern...not sure, not sure, to be honest I don't understand it," Rennie replied when asked about the northern resistance. "As we know there's a lot of emphasis now around head contact and so on, there's going to be a lot of cards.

"So individuals who get it wrong, they're going to get punished, they're going to spend a long time on the sideline anyway. But I just think that if we can get back to 15 on 15, ideally that's what we want."

With the law trials set to start across the globe on Aug. 1 they will be in play for the Rugby Championship but not the Wallabies' three-Test series against France which at this stage due to kick off in Sydney on Jul. 7.

There have been suggestions that SANZAAR officials will lobby World Rugby to allow the red-card trial to be in play for the Rugby Championship.

With the French officially touching down in Sydney on Tuesday night, the condensed three-Test series is now assured to proceed albeit potentially with a change in venues as Rugby Australia continues to monitor the COVID situation in New South Wales.

The Wallabies are getting on with the job of preparing for what has been described as an under-strength French squad, although both Rennie and assistance Scott Wisemantel have insisted the touring cohort is still loaded with quality young talent.

And the Wallabies have some personnel concerns of their own to deal with, particularly in the halves where Nic White has been ruled out with injury and James O'Connor continues to battle a groin complaint.

Waratahs skipper Jake Gordon is however making good progress in his rehab from an MCL injury and has the second Test in his sights, and could potentially still be available for the Sydney opener. Matt To'omua, meanwhile, remains another injury concern and is not currently with the squad on the Gold Coast.

"Matt To'omua, he got a knock in the second last round of Trans-Tasman, he had to have a week off and then he came in and got a knock the first training," Rennie said. "So he's had some injections and we're trying to get that settled down; he's out of camp and we're bringing him back in Sunday.

"James has had a little bit of a groin niggle but he's remained in camp. He's still able to contribute and is rehabbing here, he'll have a trot around a later on today and hopefully we'll be able to get a bit more out of him next week."

Rennie admitted both men were in a race to be fit for the first Test, though he was hopeful that one or both of his more experienced backs could yet line up at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

"It's a possibility [they could play], but obviously neither of them have done a lot of training with us," Rennie said. "And we've had big days, we've got through a hell of a lot of detail and we've got some good young men among this group who will be applying pressure for selection.

"So I guess what you've got to do is you've got to plan to be without them and we'll know a bit more by the end of the weekend of how Matt returns and how James recovers."

Returning lock Matt Philip will link up with the squad later on Thursday having completed his quarantine requirements in Sydney. Philip will go straight from the hotel to the airport, with Wallabies staff insisting he has clearance to enter Queensland as he has not been out in the community in Sydney for the past two weeks.