Dave Rennie has delared he’s not afraid to blood uncapped youngsters in the imminent Bledisloe Cup tests, despite the Wallabies’ limited preparation for the All Blacks in New Zealand.

Yet the newly appointed coach is keeping almost all his selection and injury cards close to his chest in the lead-up to his first matches in charge.

Two weeks out from the first rugby Test anywhere in the world since Covid19 brought sport to a grinding halt, Rennie and his assistants are making up for lost time ahead of two blockbuster fixtures on October 11 in Wellington and October 18 in Auckland.

His inaugural teamsheet will make for fascinating reading, in particular the question of whether the 56-year-old will veer away from the regular names favoured by predecessor Michael Cheika – of those who remain.

The Wallabies arrived in NZ late Friday night ahead of the first two Bledisloe Tests.
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Dave Rennie and Wallabies captain Michael Hooper before leaving Australia.

One school of thought argues it is risky to throw a bunch of kids with no test experience into the deep end against a largely settled All Blacks side oozing depth.

But Rennie indicated his first matchday 23 had room for young faces.

“We’ve got a bit of an idea but there’s still some positions up for grabs, and we’ll let the players do the talking over the next few days,” Rennie said.

“We’ve always said we’re going to pick on form and if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. There is no doubt some of these young men are going to put serious heat on a spot within that 23. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got a good blend and support around them.”

Pressed on which positions may be the hardest to pick, he was not in any mood to divulge more than necessary.

“I’m not going to answer that question,” Rennie said. “There are a number of positions where it’s tight. Some may depend on combinations, but I think how some people train may tip the scales.

“We want guys to understand they’ve got to earn the right to play, so that’s not just how they perform on game day. It’s all the work they’re doing off the field – in the gym and in front of computers – to influence or earn the right to play.”

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Noah Lolesio, the Brumbies’ 18-year-old Auckland-born first-five eighth, could be in line for a Wallabies debut against the All Blacks.

Of the 16 uncapped players in the squad, halfback Tate McDermott, No.10 Noah Lolesio, No.8 Harry Wilson and openside breakaway Fraser McReight appear to be the frontrunners for a test debut on Kiwi soil.

Players and staff are in hotel isolation in Christchurch and aiming to be training in full by Tuesday morning.

Thanks to Rennie’s complaint a fortnight ago that New Zealand’s quarantine restrictions would be too harsh when the Wallabies landed, lockdown has not been overly arduous for the 44-strong visiting party since they arrived on Friday evening.

They are allowed into a small courtyard at certain times of the day and can chat with one another, provided masks are on.

Some players have even organised coffee catch-ups from the confines of their individual rooms, while fitness equipment has been provided.

The unlucky ones have a spin bike in their rooms, while others use pull-up bars on doors and have been given body weight exercises to do.

Andrew Phan/Wallabies Media
Wallabies forward Ned Hanigan (L) and coach Dave Rennie (right) have a socially distanced chat at their quarantine base in Christchurch.

“We had an early morning session all jumping around, which was pretty funny,” Ned Hanigan said. “I’ve got Hoops [Michael Hooper] above me. I thought he was going to end up in the room with me. There was a bit of thunder going on.”

Rennie said they were “trying to cram in as much as we can as well and trying to get some physical work into them”.

“The danger is trying to do too much and then we lack intensity on game day,” Rennie said. “There will be no excuses. We’ve got enough time to prepare.”

On the injury front, Rennie is confident Jordan Petaia will be right for the first Test in a fortnight and said he expected all 44 players to be available for selection. He did note that Rob Simmons and James Slipper had niggles and were being monitored.

Chris Hyde/Getty Images
Dave Rennie’s Wallabies have lost their Qantas sponsorship.

Meanwhile Rennie, who said he would return to full pay next month like those in the Test set-up, said it was great to see Wallabies players agree to donate some of their bonuses to Super Rugby players still on 70 per cent pay until the end of the year.

I’m really impressed they fought for their mates who aren’t in the Test arena, who they are going to share any bonus payments with,” he said. “It’s impressive.”

Michael Steele/Getty Images
Former Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika will assist Argentina in the Rugby Championship.

He was equally upbeat regarding the news that Wallabies coach Michael Cheika had signed on to be an assistant with Argentina during the Rugby Championship.

“Good on him,” Rennie said. “Obviously he knows a little bit about our boys, or some of them. We’ll play probably a completely different game to what they play. I’m sure he’s got a lot to add to that group.”

Hanigan, who also confirmed he will be leaving the Waratahs to take up one-year deal in Japan, added: “Any secrets he can bring to the table may give them a leg-up. Cheik and Mario [Ledesma] are real good mates … we’ll see him from a distance and have an air handshake after the game I suppose.”

This content was originally published here.