Dave Rennie reflects on his proudest moment as he says farewell to Glasgow Warriors

Mixed emotions over Guinness Pro14 final as departing coach heads Down Under

Dejected Glasgow Warriors players leave the field after acknowledging their fans following defeat by Leinster at Celtic Park in the 2019 Guinness Pro 14 final. Picture: SNS/SRU

On Monday the three-year reign of Dave Rennie at Glasgow Warriors will officially come to an end as Danny Wilson takes over and the 56-year-old Kiwi says he will leave Scotland with an abundance of fond memories.

Reflecting on his proudest moment and his most disappointing during his tenure before he departs to take on the Australia national job he chooses the same occasion – last year’s Guinness Pro14 final when Glasgow played in front of 45,000 at Celtic Park on a landmark day for Scottish rugby, but fell just short as they lost 18-15 to Leinster.

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“They were probably the same day,” he said in response to the question. “The final last year was a huge disappointment because we had played such good footy for a couple of months and were really on top of our game.

“I was really proud of how we finished the year, playing under pressure each week as we tried to stay ahead of Munster [in Conference A]. A number of those victories were pretty emphatic [not least the 50-20 thumping of Ulster in their home semi-final] and I was incredibly proud of that.”

Rennie is hopeful that, with lockdown restrictions easing, he can make his return to the southern hemisphere as quickly as possible and embark on his new challenge as Wallabies coach.

“I’ll get off start of June, early June,” he said. “I’m leaving in the next couple of weeks, heading back to New Zealand for two weeks’ quarantine and then spending a couple of weeks with my family and then heading to Aussie.

“Hopefully the borders are sorted then and I don’t have to quarantine again there [in Australia]. They’ve been pretty stringent in New Zealand and Australia. You’re going to get locked in a hotel for a couple of weeks, but you fully understand and accept that.”

Asked what advice he would give Scottish rugby as he leaves the country at an uncertain time, Rennie said: “It’s a massive question. What we have tried to do is identify good young Scottish kids and bring them through.

“I honestly believe that there are some really good players over here, some really good kids coming through, and I think Edinburgh and Glasgow are preparing these guys pretty well for the step up to international footy.

“That’s probably the challenge over here. In New Zealand, there are five Super sides and 14 NPC teams that guys come out of. Over here there are a couple of clubs and a few guys playing outside of the border.

“I guess you have to fight a little bit harder [in New Zealand] to be an international player.”

Rennie believes the transition process for Scotland forwards coach Wilson, inset, to take over, which has been brought forward a month, has been as smooth as could be expected with the complications brought in by the Covid-19 pandemic crisis and temporary shutdown of rugby.

“When Danny was appointed we had a good chat and as soon as the Six Nations ended he was going to spend as much time as he wanted in our environment,” explained Rennie.

“Just be a fly on the wall, have a decent look at everything we’re doing and why we’re doing it and get an understanding. Just put himself in a position so he can make some decisions about what he’s going to keep and what he’ll change and so on.

“That hasn’t been possible, but we’ve had a lot of conversations on the phone and Zoom, he’s had lots of meetings with the coaches and the management, to get planning done.”

Despite the current uncertainty and potential looming economic fall-out, Rennie is sure that he leaves the 
Warriors with a bright future to come.

“My decision to come to Glasgow, the quality of the culture was a big part of that,” he said. “I’d come out of a team, the [Waikato] Chiefs, where it was a massive part of our DNA. That was a big decision for me and I certainly haven’t been let down in that area.

“There are great people at Glasgow on the staff and the players. Outstanding work ethic, really caring, they’re really a tight group. Great community connection, and we’ve tried to build on what’s been built in the past. There’s no doubt it’s been a really good culture for a long time and we’re really proud of all the men and women involved in that club.”

With the likes of Jonny Gray following fellow stars Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg through the exit door to more lucrative contracts in England and France, Rennie pointed to the rich vein of talent coming through at Scotstoun.

“You look at George Horne, Adam Hastings, Scott Cummings coming through. Kyle Steyn has has real ability to make a mark... Zander and Matt Fagerson who are still young men. Tom Gordon will be an excellent player, Stafford McDowall, Bruce Flockhart… I am looking forward to watching from afar. When we bring the Wallabies here late next year [in the 2021 autumn Tests series at Murrayfield] I will know about the opposition and they will know about me no doubt.”

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