Rugby Australia boss defends high injury toll as ‘freak’ occurrences

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Rugby Australia (RA) chief executive Andy Marinos has defended the Wallabies’ injury crisis as a series of “freak” occurrences but revealed the team’s coaching staff had adjusted the players’ training loads to counter the high number of casualties.

This comes after Australia suffered a record 48-17 loss to Argentina in San Juan on Saturday.

Marinos also revealed that RA will not be negotiating a contract extension with Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie until after the team’s end-of-year tour.

The Wallabies have played five Tests so far this year and been victorious on just two occasions.

Low win rate for Rennie

By contrast, they impressed with five consecutive wins during last year’s Rugby Championship and their latest defeats to England and the Pumas means Rennie’s win rate is at just 40 per cent from 25 Tests while the Wallabies have dropped to seventh in the latest world rankings.

“It’s been a tough and disappointing international series,” Marinos told the Sydney Morning Herald. “When you critically look back on it, we’ve created opportunities and failed to execute in the big moments.

“What we have been able to develop is a great strength of depth, which meant that we could field a competitive 23 with 16 guys sitting on the sidelines. That’s a great development from last year.

“I’ve got full confidence in Dave as the right man to lead us to the World Cup. There are tweaks and things they know they need to address, and I’m really confident they’ll [do] that on and off the field – and I’m confident that we’ll get there and be successful.”

Rennie is contracted until the end of next year, but Marinos did not dismiss a contract extension being offered to the New Zealander once a review was done at the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Marinos bemoaned what he referred to as the Wallabies’ unprecedented injury toll, with 16 of the side’s leading players sidelined with injuries since their 2022 Test campaign started early in July.

The majority of the injuries were long-term and hard tissue injuries, such as Scott Sio’s shoulder ailment, Tom Banks’ broken arm and several knee tendon ruptures.

However, there were internal concerns raised after four players sustained soft tissue injuries during an exhausting training camp ahead of the series against England and four others missed the Rugby Championship Tests against Argentina due to head knocks sustained at training.

Jed Holloway (calf), Quade Cooper (calf), Andrew Kellaway (hamstring) and Len Ikitau (calf) all sustained soft tissue injuries in the build-up to or during the opening Test against England in Perth.

Dave Porecki, Rob Leota, Folau Fainga’a and Hunter Paisami were sidelined with concussions during training in Argentina, and Rennie revealed that Leota and Fainga’a were involved in an accidental clash during a non-contact session.

Marinos supported Rennie but said the Wallabies’ medical and athletic performance staff were constantly reviewing the team’s training loads. Marinos also revealed that wet conditions in south-east Queensland, where the Wallabies are based themselves, may have contributed to the injuries.

“With the soft tissue stuff, the guys were coming out of Super Rugby seasons and the intensity of training coming into the Wallabies camp really picked up,” he said.

“We’ve identified it and we’re working with our [strength and conditioning] guys around load management, but for me soft tissue injuries do come around now and then.”

Reaping rewards from tough training camp

Marinos also said the tough pre-series training camp, held on the Sunshine Coast, paid off during the latter stages of matches.

“One thing you’ve seen is that we are a lot fitter and can play at a higher intensity, which is a positive. Bar the weekend’s match, we’ve finished the stronger team in all those Test matches,” he said.

“I think everyone’s acutely aware we have to continue to manage the players through this international window, but I’ve never seen anything like this before, those longer-term ones were all pretty innocuous.”

Despite three tough Tests against England, it seems that Australia had plenty of misfortune since that series.

Tom Banks broke his arm after a bad fall during the first Test, while Caderyn Neville, Izaia Perese and Samu Kerevi all sustained season-ending knee injuries, with Kerevi’s coming during the Commonwealth Games. Then Cooper ruptured his Achilles tendon during the opening Test against Argentina.

“We’ve had five frontline players with pretty unusual injuries that are all long term and severe,” Marinos said.

“Banks was a freak break, we had four guys with concussion … then we’ve had five frontline players with pretty unusual injuries that are all long term and severe.”

READ MORE: World rankings: Wallabies drop to seventh place after record defeat

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