Nic White - An under par Australia won’t be good enough

Coach David Rennie has come under fire for inconsistent Australian performances and the recent defeat to Italy

It is difficult to read the mood of Nic White. The Australian scrumhalf talks of his players with good intentions but goes about it the wrong way. The defeat to Italy is hanging over their heads. But it seems now the imperative is to move on to Ireland and have something positive to blow away the dispiriting miasma currently resident.

Talk is of the good week against France and being so close to three wins from three on this tour instead of one win against Scotland from three. France and Italy were one point games that had Australia coming up short.

But White is right. Australia might still have beaten Italy when Cadeyrn Neville crossed for a try at the hooter. But young outhalf Ben Donaldson’s pressure conversion hit the Italian post. History.

“We were pretty close to being three from three wins here on this spring tour and [then] the picture looks pretty different,” he says. “We’re not sitting here banging our heads against the walls and thinking we’re terrible footy players. The guys have just made poor decisions and we just have to have trust in them.”


The wonderfully moustached White is no stranger to Ireland. He spent three seasons with Exeter Chiefs and before that two with Montpellier. He and Jamison Gibson-Park have glared at each other across a scrum before.

“Yeah, played Leinster a couple of times,” says White. “He’s a handy player, obviously they had Luke McGrath there as well at the time we were playing. Being over here, I’ve watched a lot of Leinster and they are obviously a very good side too.

“I know he is a bit of a livewire. I think I might have played against him when he was down in New Zealand as well. I’ve played a few of their Kiwi players.”

White by his own admission has had a long season. While Australia is not putting that out as an excuse, his stint on the bench last week watching Italy win for the first time was a welcome break.

The team has played 12 Test matches since the beginning of July including two against England, two against New Zealand and two against South Africa with a win and a loss against the world champions. Ireland on Saturday and Wales in the Principality Stadium on November 27th will close this season’s account.

The loss against Italy, however, compounded a miserable year in which the side has lost eight tests, piling the pressure on coach Dave Rennie ahead of the World Cup in France next Autumn.

“Yeah, for me yeah it’s been a long year,” says the 32-year-old White. “It was always the plan to start one, bench one, have one off. As you’ve seen we’ve been rotated. Yeah look, I certainly feel pretty good this Monday to where I was last Monday.

“Like I said it’s been a pretty big year for all of us. Personally speaking, it’s the second game I’ve missed. The other one was for the birth of my son, so I’ve played a lot of footy this year. I think it was good planning. Yeah, I certainly used last week to make sure my body is in a really good place come this week.”

White and the player sitting beside him Bernard Foley both watched from the stands in Florence. Ireland’s challenge, they acknowledge, will be of a different magnitude. That threat, White believes, will generate the appropriate Australian response.

There is a professional respect for Ireland, measured deference to their number one status and the recent scalps of South Africa and New Zealand. But there is no sense of fear.

“Yeah, I think we know what to expect from Ireland this week in terms of they’re going to be good,” says White.

“Like, they’re consistent. So that narrows the mind for us. We need to just kind of focus on ourselves and make sure we’re good and we put out a performance.

“We can’t get too focused on them and the outcome. We know if we put out an under par performance it’s not going to be good enough.”

The perception too is that Australia is a penalty giving side. If Johnny Sexton is fit to play on Saturday, that will be consequential.

“Oh yeah, probably looking back at the last few games there is a perception,” he says. “We can’t control perceptions. Look, guys are going out there trying to affect change with good intentions, but it’s not helping us.”

White is a scrumhalf that plays with attitude. Looks it too. He is involved and busy. He is aggressive and in August Springbok scrumhalf Faf De Klerk scuffed his retro WW1 whiskers as he attempted to put pressure on at a ruck. Dramatically falling to his knees clasping his face earned De Klerk sin bin time and White South African fury.

“Obviously we don’t have our heads buried in the sand,” he says of Australia’s consistency. “It’s disappointing. We feel, in this playing group, that we are letting him [coach Rennie] down. We need to step it up.”

That’s the mood right there of Australia and White. Demanding.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times