The Curious Case of Dave Rennie

Some questions are, on the face of it, relatively easy to answer.

Should I go for a drive with my wife and kids to test my eyesight?
Will drinking bleach cure my coronavirus?
Should I order a third beer at the team hotel?

Actually, ignore that last one as it opens a big can of worms. But you get my
point.

Some questions are more complicated.

The type of question that, when asked, makes you look to the sky, suck the air through your teeth and collapse into a shrug.

If you need to see what I mean, ask a Glasgow Warriors fan what he or she thinks about Dave Rennie’s time at the club.

It’s been announced that the transition from Rennie to new head coach Danny Wilson will be brought forward to the start of June. That means as of next week, there’s a new man in charge, even without all that much to be done.

While there’s been an outpouring of goodwill towards the glut of Glasgow stalwarts who have said farewell in recent weeks (Ruaridh Jackson, Tim Swinson and Rory Hughes to name but a few), it’s harder to detect any real sense of loss about the coach’s departure.

Or any great strength of feeling at all, actually.

That’s not to say Rennie has been an unpopular figure. Far from it.

To use one of his own favourite phrases, he comes across as a “high-quality man”. He’s been accessible to fans, seems to have genuine empathy for his players and has a likeable way of always trying to give honest and thoughtful answers to the media, win, lose or draw.

Everyone wishes him well in Australia, at least until the next time the Wallabies pitch up at Murrayfield.

And Glasgow’s performances on the pitch during his 2.68 seasons in charge have been respectable enough.

Rennie only completed two domestic competitions. In one, he took it to the last day, ending in a narrow defeat to an excellent Leinster side in the PRO14 final. In the other, some blistering early season form secured a home semi-final playoff (no need to mention how that one went).

This campaign was a bit shaky, but the possibility of a third playoff was still live when everything ground to a halt.

Europe hasn’t been so good but, again, there were some memorable moments. Coming back from places like Lyon and La Rochelle with a win is decent and, in 2018/19, Glasgow reached the European Cup quarter-finals for only the second time.

The statistics suggest there’s not much to choose between Rennie and his predecessor Gregor Townsend when it comes to results.

Toonie’s win rate over his last three seasons was 60.1%. Rennie’s is 59.9%.

Rennie’s PRO14 record is better (65% wins versus 62%) but Toonie did better in Europe (52% wins against Dave’s 41%). I’d argue that Townsend had the benefit of a stronger squad but there’s not much in it.

So why this vague sense of disappointment about Rennie’s time at Scotstoun?

It’s just that, well, where was the stardust?

Remember when his appointment was announced? It was exciting, intriguing and pretty bewildering. Dave Rennie was one of the world’s most sought after coaches. A man with a global reputation. Part of the rugby elite (back when elite was cool – Ed.). A genuine contender to become the next All Blacks coach.

It seemed inconceivable that the Scotstoun gig was the most high-profile or lucrative offer to be waved under his nose at that time. Someone, somewhere within Scottish Rugby had played a blinder to get him.

Fast forward to the present day and it’s hard to say if the last three seasons have had any real impact on the reputations of Glasgow Warriors or Dave Rennie.

Eye-catching wins have been matched by painful defeats. That La Rochelle victory I mentioned above? The next week, the Frenchmen brought their seconds to Scotstoun and won. The European quarter-final ended up as a total beasting by Saracens.

Some players have improved notably under Rennie (George Horne, Adam Hastings or Sam Johnson for example), but others have regressed. An alarming number slid off the radar altogether.

Huw Jones went from one of the most exciting prospects in world rugby to Glasgow’s third choice outside centre in the blink of an eye.

Huw Jones
Huw Jones has struggled for games under Rennie which has hampered his international career badly – pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

The squad comings and goings were difficult to follow at times, with players leaving and turning up at random points in the season often as injury cover rather than part of any grand strategy.

Perhaps the real-life Dave Rennie was never going to match the showroom version Glasgow’s supporters had been viewing from afar.

The level of expectation was probably unrealistic. But the expectation was certainly there; a feeling that one of the world’s best coaches would take Glasgow to the next level by overcoming better-resourced opposition with a sprinkling of All Black magic.

There might be a time, once he’s safely reached the other side of the world and got his feet under the desk at Wallabies HQ, when Dave Rennie will speak about his time at Glasgow. He’s the kind of person who probably could and would give chapter and verse on what went down.

Until then, it’s difficult to know what to make of Dave Rennie’s stint at Scotstoun.

Some questions are not easy to answer.

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Alan has played club rugby badly for more than 20 years and is currently lumbering around for Bannockburn RFC. He's been a Glasgow Warriors season ticket holder since before it was fashionable.

8 comments on “The Curious Case of Dave Rennie

  1. Not rocket science on

    See ya later Dave Rennie. Thanks for Calum Gibbins, I guess. Wait a minute.

    Good luck using tactical acumen and man management to turnaround Oz LOL.

  2. sceptic 9 on

    really good summary Alan. Pretty much how I see it.

    The expectations were high – big name coach with established reputation, inheriting an excellent squad.
    But for me his reputation was almost an albatross in terms of expectations. Reputations from a previous or future job are what they are, what any coach or player does in the here and now is all that should matter to a fan. And on what he delivered – you sum it up very well. Mixed overall, not a move onwards and upwards

  3. Alanyst on

    Nice to see an article again. Thanks!

    I think the sympathy is for players whose long Glasgow careers (as players anyway) have suddenly been ended early.

    Rennies career is not over and he had already decided to go with a successor appointed. It’s a bit like finding out the plumber is coming a day early. Meh.

  4. Neil on

    I think Dave Rennie done what he could with a limited squad and Budget compared to Townsend (although i do not know the actual budgets)

    He brought through and developed some really good young players to help with this.

    I think when we lost playere like Reid, Nakarawa, Strauss (at the time) that the pack massively struggled, something Rennie had to address and did by the second season. Add to that not being able to afford retaining players such as Maitland, Russell, Hogg and the SRU not giving enough support and any coach in the world would struggle.

    In saying that he messed up our two best centres in Dunbar and Jones and has struggled/failed to get the best of out what he had at times.

  5. Sam Laycock on

    The problem with Rennie was they spent so much on him there was nothing left for the squad. I’m sure a lot of the players and coaches will have learned a lot from working with him and we well see the fruits of that in the future but it’s the right time for a change.
    He did seem to have an ideological issue with anyone he perceived to have a big reputation, Jones and Russel primarily.

  6. Ben F on

    Dave who ? It, is, time for a change , to land him was a big thing for the SRU. His replacement is the polar opposite, Danny who ?

  7. TeamCam on

    I think Glasgow at their best under Rennie were equal to under Toonie. Just watching last season’s 1872 decider, and they’re brutal.

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