Robbie Deans: Should he stay or should he go?
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans prior to the Bledisloe Cup match between Australia and New Zealand. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
I have been thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of Robbie Deans as a coach. I thought I would try and quantify it by adding my subjective ratings rather than just have qualitative statements.
The approach I made is to break the coaches responsibilities down into different areas, score them and give them a weighting so the total adds up to 100. Then add the scores and get a rating out of 100. The weighting is my subjective evaluation of the relative worth of that aspect.
First of all the ratings are made in the historical context of Wallabies performances in these areas in the professional era. If we are normally weak in an area and are now on par then you get a high rating, similarly if we used to be excellent in an area but are on just par you get a low rating.
I am also focusing on where the Wallabies are now not four or five years ago.
Set Pieces: Scrums
This is a traditional weakness for Wallaby teams who are normally satisfied with parity. The Wallabies are currently strong in this area having bettered England, SA and achieved parity with New Zealand and Argentina. Italy were slightly better and the French were a lot better.
Weighted score 4/5. 8/10 Scrum weighting 5.
This is a traditional strength of Wallaby teams. Expect dominance against most teams in this area. Only against Wales in the last match have we dominated. Against most other teams the performance has been one of parity or we have been well beaten (for instance South Africa).
Weighted Score 2/5. 4/10 Lineout weighting 5.
This is a traditional weakness for Wallaby teams. We are achieving parity in most cases at the moment. We use them slightly better than we defend against them.
Weighted score 3/5. 6/10 Maul weighting 5.
This is a traditional strength of Wallaby teams. This strength has traditionally been due to the quality of opensiders rather than technical expertise or tactics or power of players. Expect dominance against most teams in this area.
This is possibly Deans’ best area. The Wallabies actually have multiple plans for the breakdown. Sometimes they leave it with few players, sometimes they flood it. They have been winning the collisions in this area (and this is rare for Wallaby teams).
They counterruck well, and they have excellent turnovers in this area or manage to slow the ball down.
Since rucks happen far more than scrums, mauls, lineouts, and are the most common way to get on front foot, I give them a higher weighting.
Weighted Score 16/20. 8/10 Ruck weighting 20.
This is a traditional strength of the Wallabies. Wallaby teams normally challenge any defence. They offer multiple threats and challenges. They are innovative and creative. They are hard to read and predict. Skill levels are normally high.
This is Deans’ worst area.
Under Deans, attack does not threaten and is predictable. The team scores few tries, and has low skill levels. Wallaby teams have gone backwards a lot in this department. The only area of improvement has been the forward pick and drive.
Since attack is half of the general play it is weighted very highly.
Weighted Score 2/20. 1/10 Attack weighting 20.
This is a traditional strength of Wallaby teams. Wallaby teams normally are difficult to score tries against or retain possession against, or even to get over the advantage line.
The results here are reasonable for Deans.
Under Deans the defence is solid, and very good near the line. Not many tries are scored. However the drift defence allows easy territory gain out wide.
Also angle attacks punch through too often. The percentage of made tackles have dropped under Deans. The defence was best under Muggleton but has dropped since then. It is still a strong defence but not as good as it used to be.
Weighted Score 10/20. 5/10 Defence weighting 20.
Tactics / Opposition Analysis
This is a traditional strength of Wallaby teams. Wallaby teams normally play clever rugby since as they are not the strongest or have the fastest or best athletes, they need to be clever.
Under Deans this is very poor. The Wallabies do not have different plans for different teams. They play the same in attack and defence. They do not exploit weakness in other teams. Even worse they do not counter known ploys or strengths of other teams.
Case in point is restarts. It is common knowledge that some teams kick short to the backs and have multiple players contesting it. We do not position players to counter this.
Another common tactic by Ireland and Wales is to hold up attacking players and make it a maul and so nullify the Wallaby ruck strength. Deans knew about this for the Rugby World Cup (it was in the media) yet Ireland still held us up, made it a maul and then turned it over. Same with Wales in Australia.
Weighted Score 2/10.
Selection is neither a weakness or strength for Wallaby teams.
Selections includes the ability to detect talent and promote it, and to jettison players past their prime, and pick the players that suit the game plan, and the ability to realise your original selections are wrong and replace them early rather than late.
This is a real weakness of Deans. His only strength in this area is to pick players that suit his one dimensional attack method of a direct runner (McCabe) to get over the advantage line and then attack from front foot. Deans plan is conservation with little risk or skill.
Deans selected and held onto journeymen for far too often (names like Brown, McCalman, Mumm, McCabe, Barnes, Dennis, Fainga’a come to mind).
About the only right move was jettisoning Giteau and promoting Pocock ahead of Smith. Deans contrary to popular opinion does not detect and promote talent.
Cooper and Genia were detected by Moody and developed by McKenzie. Deans held onto Giteau and Barnes ahead of Cooper for far too long. Nearly all of Deans successes in discovering talent have been forced by injury not due to his selection talent.
Weighted Score 1/5. 2/10 Selection weighting 5. Low weighting since when you boil it all down there are not that many choices to make.
Traditionally this is a weakness in the Wallabies. McQueen was exceptional but both Eddie Jones and John Connelly had difficulties in this area. They were both known for being hard to get on with.
Deans is quick to punish dissenting voices. Players are ignored and put on the outer and not to be selected. Deans is a poor communicator which exacerbates this weakness.
Players do not look like they enjoy rugby under Deans. Very similar to Jones and Connelly they are under strict orders and cannot utilise their talents to their best.
Deans does have leadership groups and players are allowed input however it is debatable if the input is listened to.
Weighted Score 3/5. 6/10 Man Management weighting 5. Only because most Wallaby coaches are poor in this area does Deans get a reasonable score.
Game Day Coaching
This is the coach on match day adjusting to the play as it unfolds. What do we need to change to fix weaknesses the opposition are exploiting, how do we attack weaknesses that have unfolded? How do we exploit injuries in the other team? How do we manage the bench for maximum impact and for managing tired players?
Deans is about the worst match day coach I have seen, with very poor use of the bench.
Deans replaces by predetermination rather than by ‘what is in front of him’.
I have never seen any play change in reaction to how the match day has unfolded.
Weighted Score 0/5. 0/10 Game Day Coaching weighting 5.
The result of my quantitative analysis is 43/100 for Deans as a Wallaby coach.
Conclusions? He has been a failure, and needs to be replaced.