Opinion: Warriors supporters should shed few tears over loss of Rennie

When New Zealander departs at end of this season it will present Glasgow with an opportunity to find a head coach able to drive the club forward once again

Dave Rennie with co-captain ahead of last season's home Champions Cup clash against Saracens. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Dave Rennie with co-captain Ryan Wilson ahead of last season's home Champions Cup clash against Saracens. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

GLASGOW WARRIORS will almost certainly have a new head coach next year after it emerged that current boss Dave Rennie will be moving to Australia to take over the Wallabies, or possibly to New Zealand to replace Steve Hansen, or even – a little improbably, you have to think – to Italy since they too were after the Kiwi according to rumours.

Rennie is a man in demand, which stems mostly from his work south of the Equator rather than in the badlands of Scotstoun in Glasgow. He won the Super Rugby title with the Chiefs at the first time of asking, the first to do so, and again in his second season 2013. That was six years ago and that was the last time Rennie won anything. He stayed with the Chiefs until 2017 when he moved to Scotland to take over from the newly promoted Gregor Townsend at Glasgow.

He is said to be popular with the players and he seems like a decent bloke to share a beer with in a bar – but where it matters most, on the pitch, Rennie has rather underwhelmed.


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In his debut season, the Warriors swept all before them in the regular league campaign playing an attacking brand of rugby that could be termed Toony+ and they qualified for the play-offs weeks before the event. But come the semi-final against the Scarlets, it was Rennie that was left looking red-faced as his team no-showed.

The Scarlets thumped Glasgow at Scotstoun 13-28 and they did so without the inspirational John Barclay, who injured himself early on in proceedings. Glasgow’s defence was atrocious, not for the first or for the last time, as Scarlets cut loose.

The Kiwi had already raised eyebrows when dropping Finn Russell for his first inter-city derby against Edinburgh, played for the 1872 Cup. It is, in case anyone still doesn’t know, the oldest derby outside of internationals in the world, and the Kiwi wasn’t aware that dropping his star playmaker, replaced by Peter Horne, was only going to fuel Richard Cockerill’s pre-match call to arms! “C’mon fellas, they are fielding their second string ffs!”

Despite being reduced to 14 men after Simon Berghan had seen red for a boot to Fraser Brown’s head, Edinburgh clung on for a famous win in front of 23,000 fans.

In fact, Rennie has won just two of the six derbies that he has played, which tells a story in itself; his team beat the stragglers but almost always come up short in the big games against big opposition.

That was certainly true of last season’s ignominious end to Glasgow’s European campaign when, after doing well to qualify, they hit the buffers in spectacular style at Saracens’ Allianz Park. The score ended 56-27 in favour of the home side although that doesn’t really do justice to Glasgow’s complete inability to compete in any phase of the game whatsoever. Two Glasgow tries in the final quarter gave the scoreboard a veneer of respectability that their performance did not deserve.

Rennie’s selection policy again come under scrutiny, because he picked the relatively young and inexperienced Stafford McDowall out of position, asking the habitual No 12 to shift one wider to the all-important 13 channel. Outside centre is the most difficult channel to defend. McDowall was targeted, isolated and turned inside out by Saracens’ dummy runners who stood him up before the ball was whipped wide just as the poor Scot had put down roots.

To be clear, McDowall did not lose that game by himself. Glasgow could have fielded Manu Tuilagi himself in the 13 shirt and still lost by a landslide, but the youngster’s selection out of position looked like a serious error in judgement after the event.

In fairness to Rennie, his team did go one better in the PRO14, getting to the final where they lost to Leinster. That is no disgrace but if you can’t beat Leinster at Celtic Park in front of 47,000+ (mostly) Glasgow fans then you probably never will … at least not when it matters.

And all of the above could have been forgiven if Rennie hadn’t taken two of Scotland’s best midfielders and crushed the confidence out of them.

Alex Dunbar and Huw Jones are decent rugby players, better than decent, they are good players and the evidence is there for anyone who has witnessed them in a Scotland shirt over the years, but at Glasgow they have been marginalised, ignored and eventually exiled. Dunbar is off to Brive and it seems only a matter of time before Jones follows him out the door. It wasn’t Townsend’s decision not to pick Dunbar for the RWC2019 training squad, he couldn’t select a player who had hardly played any rugby and that was Rennie’s decision.

Despite losing all those numbers to Townsend’s World Cup squad, Jones was still stuck on the Glasgow bench when they lost tamely to the Dragons, the worst of the Welsh regions, last weekend, although he did enter the game late and claim a try, which happened to be Glasgow’s only points of the match. It was another ‘no-show’ for Rennie’s under-performing side.

It may be that being a Kiwi, Rennie expects to whistle up any number of willing centre substitutes from the club game, as a Super Rugby coach might do, but this is Scotland and we don’t have that depth of talent. We have to take the material we have and make the most out of it, not something the Kiwi can claim.

These things are never black and white. Despite Glasgow’s dreadful results this season – one win in four outings and 13 tries conceded – Rennie remains popular. He has done some good things with the club, but surely not nearly enough for the Warriors faithful to mourn his passing for more than a moment before hoping that his eventual replacement can make a more substantial and lasting impression on the club.


Dave Rennie insists he will see out his Glasgow Warriors contract

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Iain Morrison
About Iain Morrison 17 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.

7 Comments

  1. Although Glasgow suffered a slow start with an absence of many key players, it does give much needed experience to younger up and coming talent to play at a higher level, which Rennie has done, and will improve depth and competition in the ranks. Leading to better performce of the team as a whole.

  2. Its harsh but on the whole it’s pretty accurate. All too often Glasgow have failed to show up in big games and been meek in defeat. Ok so the top players being away isn’t helping so far this season, I’ll give him that.

    The point about the treatment of Dunbar and Jones is spot on, both are top talents and should not have been frozen out like they were. That is bad management.

    Failing to sign a good full back to go some way to replacing Hogg is another mark against him. Nothing against Glenn Bryce but I don’t see opponents quaking in their boots at the prospect of facing him.

    Now he is discussing his options with Oz and NZ, I think his eye is no longer on the ball and it’s best he leaves sooner rather than later. The warriors cant afford this distraction

  3. Have not seen enough of the Warriors to comment, but results have indeed been mixed.
    Interested in the issue around Jones and Dunbar.
    Our player base is far too small for two such talented individuals to have lost their mojo. I would put Mark Bennett in this category too, although judging by match reports delighted that he seems to have recovered his.
    Are Glasgow/Scottish Rugby doing something wrong that three such outstanding talents can lose their way?

  4. I’m sorry to say that Glasgow have stalled while rennie has been in charge. Edinburgh on the other hand have after a slow start with cockerill have thrived and are looking the more accomplished team. I hope I’m wrong but I do fear the worst this season

  5. Bit of a hatchet-job, this one.

    Dave Rennie’s term has been a success: against a backdrop of world-class players leaving and no replacements being provided, to reach the Pro14 final and the knockout stages of the Champions Cup should be considered well beyond expectations.

    Given the disparity in budget and talent, Glasgow have no right to challenge the likes of Saracens and Leinster.

    I think Rennie is well within his rights to be looking elsewhere given the rug is continually being swept from beneath him. Recruitment has been either poor or non-existent (though it’s not clear what Rennie’s input has been), and I’d expect certain promises were made to him with regards to the quality of squad at his disposal that have not been met.

    The start to this season mirrors almost exactly what happened during the last World Cup. No team on Earth can absorb the loss of 20 players (bear in mind, they will have done their pre-seasons with their national sides as well).

    I fear we won’t realise what an excellent coach Dave Rennie is until he’s no longer here.

    • Well said, Stortoni’s Socks.

      I understand that this is an opinion piece, but you really need to cherrypick the evidence to come to the conclusion that Mr. Morrison has. Glasgow have had a poor start this season, but achieved a lot last year making the knock-out stages in the Champions’ Cup and the final of the Pro-14. There were a few bad results along the way, no question about it, but the rugby Glasgow has played under Rennie has been terrific at times (and their league position last season suggests it was good more often than not).

      It’s maybe worth pointing out that Cockrill’s Edinburgh failed to qualify for the Champions’ Cup this season, but I only ever hear positive things about the coaching in the capital. Or should we eagerly await a similar hatchet job there too?

  6. Don’t think you can blame early defeats on the coach when 1/2 his top players are in Japan. Blame the fixtures when coaches are unable to field their top team.

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