Kiwi-born Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is eager to play the All Blacks as much as possible this year, rubbishing claims he was set to walk away from the job when fellow New Zealander Raelene Castle was sacked as CEO of Rugby Australia.
Rennie, who spoke to media today via video call from Auckland, where he is completing Covid-19 quarantine, was asked about what he hopes to achieve in his new role at the Wallabies.
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Expecting much of his success to be measured by results, the former Chiefs coach said his priority was to put his side up against the All Blacks as soon as possible.
He said as many as four trans-Tasman clashes for this year were in the pipeline.
"What we know is that we should get to play the All Backs a number of times this year if nothing else so that's a great introduction for us," Rennie, who was named as Michael Cheika's replacement last November, said. "For me, that's pretty exciting, you're playing - normally - the best side in the world ... it's a really good gauge for us of where we need to be.
"I reckon the more times you play the All Blacks, the better because we haven't had a lot of success against them over the last 15 or so years so we've got to put ourselves under pressure against the best."
While the international rugby calendar has been thrown out by the Covid-19 pandemic, Rennie has remained confident over a trans-Tasman bubble being formed in time for the Bledisloe Cup.
However, he said recent discussions had been inconclusive.
"As each week or two passes, another plan goes in the bin," he said. "So what we're all hoping is that the boarders will loosen up in Australia, we'll certainly be able to travel across the Tasman and there should be some All Black tests.
"I still hope that the Rugby Championship can go ahead but that's going to depend on what's happening in South Africa and Argentina. There's an appetite to get whatever International footy we can so certainly there'll be some tests against the All Blacks for us and that'll be great."
Earlier this year, Rennie was believed to be reconsidering his future with the Wallabies in wake of Castle being let go.
Castle was key to recruiting Rennie to the role in the wake of Cheika's departure before she stepped down in April after coming under pressure by Rugby Australia.
When asked whether her resignation did in fact leave him at a crossroads with the Wallabies, Rennie rubbished the claims, insisting he had never threatened to walk away.
"It was clear I was looking forward to working with Raelene, I rate her - high character and tough," Rennie said.
"I was incredibly disappointed, I would've loved to work with her.
"[But] I've signed, I'm committed, there's a lot of other guys who we've brought in also expecting me to be there ... so no I wasn't going to walk away and I'm not sure where that came from."