No start for Will Skelton, but Rennie at ease with Giteau Law use

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie remains comfortable with his use of the Giteau Law this season, after he promoted the European-based Tolu Latu to the starting side for Australia's final Test of 2021.

That means Will Skelton will be the only player not to earn a run-on start of Rennie's original European trio, while Kurtley Beale, who was brought in after the injury to Reece Hodge in Japan, will again fill the fullback role after returning to the No. 15 jersey at Twickenham last week.

While his focus is solely on snapping a two-game skid and ensuring the Wallabies finish 2021 on a high, Rennie is aware that he will soon need to present his side of the Giteau Law roller coaster to a Rugby Australia committee.

"What we'll do at the end of the tour is we'll assess," Rennie told reporters via Zoom on Thursday evening [AEDT]. "Obviously we've used a handful of guys who are outside of our group, so we'll have a better understanding of what that looks like beyond Christmas."

Chief executive Andy Marinos and board members Phil Waugh and Daniel Herbert have been examining the Giteau Law this year, trying to determine how best it can be managed to meet the Wallabies' need to field their strongest team possible but then also not detract from Super Rugby, where Australia already struggles to field five competitive teams.

At no stage has there been a desire to move to "open slather" where players could chase the big money offshore as they please and still be available for the Wallabies whenever they like.

But the developments of this year have raised concerns around Australia's Super Rugby franchises, with Queensland Reds general manager and former Wallabies scrum-half Sam Cordingley this week stressing the need for RA to tread cautiously on overseas eligibility or perhaps even head down a path of further player sabbaticals.

"There should be some level of flexibility, but there needs to be a threshold of entitlement," Cordingley said.

"I'm not a big believer in the carte blanche approach to it; it needs to be measured and we need to have a deeper look into the current contracting model and ... a lot remains untested at the moment in my view.

"We've got opportunities around flexible contracting, sabbaticals, discussions around amended term contracts and things that could be added to a new CBA that could be advantageous."

Told of Cordingley's comments, Rennie said it had never been his intention to turn control of the situation over to the players.

"That's what we've said, too, we don't want guys to pick and choose when they want to be Wallabies," the Wallabies coach said.

"Obviously there were some hiccups with the guys in Japan; look Sam's entitled to his opinion obviously, a few of the guys he's referring to are ex-Reds, he's had a bit to do with them."

Some in the Australian game may view the events that saw Samu Kerevi, Quade Cooper and Sean McMahon pull out of the European leg of the tour as more than just "hiccups", such was its impact on the squad.

The Wallabies have dropped their two Tests since, to Scotland and England, and will now face Wales without a specialist openside flanker. Had McMahon withdrawn from the tour before it departed Australia, then rising Reds flanker Fraser McReight may well have been brought into the squad and then been available to replace the injured Michael Hooper this weekend.

Still, Rennie said he had few regrets over how the Wallabies had utilised the expanded Giteau Law this season.

"We made decisions based on what was happening at the time," he said. "Obviously it was disappointing that the three boys in Japan couldn't join this tour because that would have it a lot more seamless. But it is what it is, we've had guys who've come in who we might not have expected to, Olly Hoskins last week for example.

"I guess we could have bought over another tighthead but Pone [Fa'aumasili] pulled out right at the death and we decided not to replace him. The next likely candidates, they were out injured as well, [Harry] Johnson-Holmes and so on. I guess we'll review the season at the end but we're reasonably happy with the decisions that we've made, we're happy with the guys we've bought in.

"We've certainly given those guys a taste of what our culture's about and I know they've really enjoyed it, so hopefully that encourages some guys to come home and strengthen our Super Rugby and I guess make these decisions easier because they're part of Super Rugby."

While Pete Samu has replaced Hooper in the No. 7 jersey this weekend, Rennie revealed Latu's promotion to the starting side was in part due to his on-ball ability at the breakdown.

"Obviously we're keen to find out a lot about these boys who have come in, he [Latu] got a bit of a cameo last week, he's got his head around things," Rennie said.

"We think he'll give us a bit of an edge physically, in particular with Hoops not playing, we think having an on-ball presence at No. 2 will complement what Pete Samu will give us, so that was a big part of the thinking."

Skelton, however, will again have to cool his heels on the bench and wait for an opportunity at the Principality Stadium.

The towering La Rochelle lock has been unable to put his frame to destructive use as yet, raising suggestions he might be better used as a starter this week, at least as much as Rennie said he was keen to "find out a lot about these boys who have come in".

But it appears his thinking on Skelton is different.

"Not really," Rennie admitted when asked whether he's considered Skelton for a start. "When I was coaching over here [at Glasgow], Saracens consistently used him off the bench, he'd come on with 20 or 25 to go and have a massive impact on a game, so yeah that was always our thinking.

"Rods [Izack Rodda] runs our lineout, so he's an important cog in that and I think those guys [Rodda and Rory Arnold] are getting better and better, they're getting their heads around what we're doing, certainly got presence on the field.

"And the frustrating thing about last week was that we just couldn't hang onto the ball long enough to utilise Will to carry and give us some go-forward. So we hope to see more of that this week."