June 17, 2020 / 5:12 AM / 22 days ago

Fisher sees grounds for optimism in Australian game

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Influential ACT Brumbies forwards coach Laurie Fisher sees grounds for optimism for Australian rugby over the next couple of years under the leadership of new Wallabies boss Dave Rennie.

Australian rugby has endured a miserable few years since the 2015 World Cup, with turmoil off the pitch and poor performances at test and Super Rugby level leading to a sharp decline in support for the game.

Fisher, an integral part of the coaching team that guided the Brumbies to Super Rugby titles in 2001 and 2004, says there was clear improvement before the COVID-19 shutdown, which will end when the Super Rugby AU competition launches on July 3.

“I think there were good signs in the game over the first six or seven rounds (of Super Rugby),” the 62-year-old told reporters from Canberra.

“The Waratahs had some problems but they were playing some nice attack. We were going well, the Reds had some outstanding attacking and offloading rugby ... and the Rebels were starting to hit their straps.

“I’d be really encouraged about where our performances are going to go over the next couple of years. And if performances go well then support will grow again.”

Key to future improvement, the former Gloucester Rugby coach said, was strong guidance from New Zealander Rennie and his assistants Scott Wisemantel and Matt Taylor.

“I think we’ll get really good leadership from the national coaches and I think there’ll be a real sense of unity and common purpose,” he added.

“The national team has to come first. That doesn’t mean that at the level underneath we all play the same game ...

“But if we’re all on the same page about what’s working ... about what are the non-negotiables for Australian players in terms of conditioning, skill-sets, game understanding, then we’re half a chance of delivering what we want to.”

The Brumbies, who were leading the Australian conference with five wins from six matches when the season was suspended, open their Super Rugby AU campaign against the Melbourne Rebels on July 4.

(This story changes to “sees” in headline, no change to text)

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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