Lions series to decide Deans’ fate

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    Robbie Deans has shown he can walk a wobbly tightrope but there’ll be no safety net in June when the Lions are unleashed.

    In the biggest year for Australian rugby since the money-spinning 2003 World Cup, Deans’ job goes on the line when the British and Irish Lions tour Australia.

    He’s already been somewhat fortunate – courtesy of grinding backs-to-the-wall wins in Perth, Rosario, London, Florence and Cardiff – to stay on for his sixth season as Wallabies coach.

    But with his current two-year contract expiring in 12 months time, Deans’ chances of pressing on to the 2015 World Cup rest heavily on the three-Test series against a hungry Lions squad focussed on ending a 16-year drought.

    It would be no mean feat to beat them and the tourists should be bolstered by the nucleus of an exciting English outfit which dished out a dominant 38-21 upset of the world champion All Blacks this month.

    But Australia will also have to show some style, as well as results, to guarantee Deans a new deal at a time rugby is battling in the football code wars.

    Bored fans have been turned off by pedestrian, predictable play, which was also trotted out in Super Rugby’s Australian interstate derbies.

    Under Deans, the Wallabies’ 2012 play was ugly, uninspiring and excruciatingly underwhelming – a stark contrast to their proud reputation as entertainers.

    Fifteen tries from 15 Tests – their worst return in 33 years – doesn’t paint the full picture but it says a lot more than the bare record of nine wins, five losses and a draw.

    To be fair to Deans and his players, a long injury list hamstrung them as they dropped to No.3 in the world rankings.

    That they recorded nine wins – including three unconvincing efforts from their last three encounters in Europe – is testament to guts, character and emergence of players like Michael Hooper, Sitaleki Timani and Ben Tapuai.

    Deans can also thank the radar boots of Berrick Barnes and Mike Harris, whose goalkicking prevented the Wallabies’ 2012 record ending in the red.

    But guts, character and penalty goals aren’t enough against the best teams.

    Four of their nine victories came against Wales – three of which almost went the other way. Only one came against a fellow top-four side.

    It says a lot about the Wallabies, and Deans’ game strategies, that their best performance was a tryless 18-all draw in the Bledisloe dead-rubber against all-conquering New Zealand.

    Creativity has been replaced by field position in a stodgy, kick-happy backline that is unable, and often unwilling, to run the ball effectively.

    Such an approach has infuriated past greats like David Campese, who has consistently called for Deans’ head.

    Irreplaceable halfback Will Genia, skipper James Horwill and backline marvel James O’Connor – all sidelined by serious leg injuries this year – are crucial reinforcements for the Lions series.

    Controversial playmaker Quade Cooper may have finally settled on a new contract with the Australian Rugby Union but it remains to be seen whether Deans will select him for the Lions series.

    He’d likely have some ground to make up with Wallabies teammates following his bombshell claim in September that the team environment was “toxic”.

    But the Wallabies badly need the X-factor that Cooper, when at his best, provides.

    “He is exceptional. You see the rubbish the Wallabies are dishing up, they need him back,” said former Wallabies fullback and Fox Sports commentator Greg Martin.

    “South Africa and New Zealand are still scoring tries and we’re not even trying.”

    The issues don’t end there for the ARU, who want to take more control of how much their leading stars play.

    There’s a significant divide between the governing body, currently in caretaker mode as they search for a new CEO to replace John O’Neill, and the states, noted by former Sports Minister Mark Arbib in his review of the game.

    Each union also must win back the fans or the code will continue to wilt.

    To do that they mostly need tries, through a return to positive and pro-active rugby.

    Long-suffering NSW Waratahs fans will have hopes yet again that their team will turn the corner and provide some genuine excitment.

    Fortunately early indications under new coach Michael Cheika are promising.

    The Queensland Reds will aim to rediscover their 2011 title winning mojo with key halves combo Genia and Cooper putting serious injuries behind them.

    This year’s surprise packets the Brumbies should be better in their second season under Jake White but can’t hope to fly under the radar, especially after recruiting David Pocock.

    The Melbourne Rebels have to add some consistency to the moments of brilliance so often featuring Kurtley Beale and O’Connor.

    Another long hard season appears in store for the Western Force with no Pocock and a lack of backline firepower despite some creative recruiting.

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (35)

    • December 11th 2012 @ 6:17am
      mania said | December 11th 2012 @ 6:17am | ! Report

      hope deans gets out as soon as he can.

      • December 11th 2012 @ 7:00am
        Justin2 said | December 11th 2012 @ 7:00am | ! Report

        I reckon if a few of us chipped in mania he’d get a first class ticket…

        • December 12th 2012 @ 7:00am
          mania said | December 12th 2012 @ 7:00am | ! Report

          j2 – i didnt say he deserved 1st class

          • December 12th 2012 @ 8:16am
            Justin2 said | December 12th 2012 @ 8:16am | ! Report

            I’d happily pay for it, not sure you get first class to chch though.

    • December 11th 2012 @ 6:59am
      Worlds biggest said | December 11th 2012 @ 6:59am | ! Report

      There is no way Dingo will change approach / tactics heading into the Lions series. It will be he same negative dross unless Genia, Cooper and JOC are fit and playing well. Even if we do win the Lions series it’s time for a fresh approach and new coach. The new CEO has to get all the states on the same page.

      • December 11th 2012 @ 11:51pm
        Hightackle said | December 11th 2012 @ 11:51pm | ! Report

        Well lets hope that next year Genia, Horwill, Pocock, JOC, McCalman, Lealiifano, Cooper, Mitchell, Kepu and Palu are availible for the Wallabies.
        OTHERWISE I WILL HAVE TO HEAR THE ENDLESS COMPLAINTS ABOUT DEANS AGAIN.
        Look at that list of players now add additional injuries to White, AAC, Ioane, Barnes, Alexander, McCabe Timani, Higgs, TPN, Moore, Faingaa, Tapuai and more. Suspensions of Simmons and Higgs. Then think.

        I can not believe the endless whinging about Deans. No country with the depth or lack of it like Aust has would expect to do well with their captain injured, their replacement captain injured, the replacements replacement injured and their first, 2nd and 3rd choice #10 out or injured. Their fullback at 10, their 2nd 5 at fullback, their world class #7 injured, their 1st and 3rd choice #9 injured, their tighthead out and having to bring a lock out of retirement to captain the team. Ausie fans are astonishing “boo hoo why are we not playing exciting winning rugby”? Are you f-ing kidding?

        • December 12th 2012 @ 8:19am
          Justin2 said | December 12th 2012 @ 8:19am | ! Report

          The replacements have shown that we have depth and that some should have been first picked. The list of players you mentioned have mostly played plenty of football this year for the wallabies.

          The main losses have been Genia and Cooper, throw in JOC to that maybe. Horwill and Poey were adequately covered. Deans fcked white over so he can’t complain about having to play Phipps.

    • December 11th 2012 @ 7:47am
      jus de couchon said | December 11th 2012 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      I was looking forward to the Lions tour of Oz. Seems the Wallabies are finnaly exposed as light weights though. Cant see how theyve done so well given their small player pool. Still , it will be good to see the Shackle Draggers put in their place again.

    • December 11th 2012 @ 8:35am
      Chivas said | December 11th 2012 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      Absolute dross and tired rhetoric. Is this cow still being milked. Are the SA, English wins included?

      i think it would be more interesting to look at why the wallabies aren’t tearing sides apart. start with the forwards. Which players are the equal or better of their opposite when compared to NZ. SA, England, France. For me there is Pocock, Horwill and Palu and they are competitive not necessarily better.

      Pocock because he has such an impact in the ruck. Palu, because he adds real impact on the fringes and plays 80 minutes. Horwill, because he is a solid lock with all the requisite skills.

      When Palu came back in. On roar a large number of bloggers were saying he was bought back too early, he’s lazy, he won’t be able to play 80mins, he should play a season of super rugby. All proved wrong, but when proven wrong not a whisper, that the right decision had been made.

      So three really important players who can control the ruck. Bring in Timani. Everyone saying he is slow, goes missing, can’t jump etc. But he has proven to be one of Australia’s better locks. But he has improved while playing tests, under Robbie Deans and the Wallaby management team. Every position is the same. Players scratching to be good enough just to be competitive as top international players.

      Who develops these players. Who ensures the are fit and have the skills required to be the best. I don’t understand the total neglect in player development to the point many of the positions are filled by players with average skills and in some cases poor fitness. In a handful of cases (Palu, Pocock, Horwill, Hooper) there are competent internationals. The rest need more work. Seriously who is the blindside.

      But it’s easier to focus on backs, QC, Deans, the Lions tour, the 2015 World Cup, but providing an in depth look or discussion of the strengths, weaknesses, skills, missing skills of players, real strategies we get another opinion piece on whether RD’s will last 5 months or not and that he needs to beat the Lions.

      Weak journalism.

      • December 11th 2012 @ 6:05pm
        The Electronic Swagman said | December 11th 2012 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

        I agree. The louder the rants about players inadequacies the quieter the ranters when they proven wrong. Lets face it. The psychology of the sports blog is to replace the post-game drunk at the pub so it is to be expected. I have actually found the vitriol towards Deans to be verging on the insane and to have more than a touch of cyber cowardice.

      • December 12th 2012 @ 8:21am
        Justin2 said | December 12th 2012 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        You keep pointing to individuals – its I how they work as a unit. Check the possession stats, we don’t get clobbered in the forwards nearly as much as people claim but our tactics are rubbish in how to break down defences from 1 to 15. One try per test, worst in 33 years and people are turning off the game.

    • December 11th 2012 @ 8:49am
      Krasnoff of Noosa said | December 11th 2012 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      The incessant draught of summer. Aussie Rugby and the long suffering Wallabies’ fans—it seems—are to be fed more of the same plodding, parochial pap from the ultra-conservative ARU who are prepared to take a chance on Deans for the Lions series. Let’s face it the man has had five years to show his measure: The Wallabies under his watch have gone from second to third in standings, and no Bledisloe Cup or World Cup. Clearly Deans is out of his depth as a coach at this level. His team selection and bench replacements are poor; he has no cohesive game strategy; little basic skills training occur under his ambit; and he is a poor team communicator. The team’s seat-of-the-pants wins were largely due to riding the coat-tails of emotion thanks to the presence of Sharpe. So, in short, is it really worthwhile for the ARU to take the punt on Deans in the event the Lions crush the Wallabies and with it the endorsement and spectator dollars in huge quantities? The ARU should ponder that before taking the so-called ‘safe’ option.

    • December 11th 2012 @ 9:10am
      glacier said | December 11th 2012 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      ‘South Africa and New Zealand are still scoring tries and we’re not even trying.” says Greg Martin. We certainly know NZ are but SA scored 15 tries (the same number Australia did in only two fewer (13) tests. Stick to carpentry Greg.

      • December 12th 2012 @ 8:46am
        formeropenside said | December 12th 2012 @ 8:46am | ! Report

        Actually, your stats are wrong. And even if they were right, scoring fewer tries per game than SOUTH AFRICA is a disaster.

        • December 12th 2012 @ 8:49am
          mania said | December 12th 2012 @ 8:49am | ! Report

          fos – but the boks are a better team. they dont have the injuries problem that aus have and have far better depth.
          i dont see why scoring less than SA is a disaster.

        • December 12th 2012 @ 8:55am
          formeropenside said | December 12th 2012 @ 8:55am | ! Report

          try scoring is not a saffa strength. penalties and field goals are how SA win games, as a rule.

          • December 12th 2012 @ 8:58am
            mania said | December 12th 2012 @ 8:58am | ! Report

            fos – traditionally you’d be correct. unfortunately for u habana has been in the mood to prove that he’s the best winger that boks have ever seen.

        • December 12th 2012 @ 9:08am
          Jerry said | December 12th 2012 @ 9:08am | ! Report

          The accurate stats are actually slightly worse for Aus.

          Aus – 15 tests, 15 tries
          SA – 12 tests, 16 tries.

          • December 12th 2012 @ 9:29am
            Justin2 said | December 12th 2012 @ 9:29am | ! Report

            Thats cringe-worthy when the Boks beat you in try scoring! And they didnt play Italy either did they?

            • December 12th 2012 @ 9:33am
              mania said | December 12th 2012 @ 9:33am | ! Report

              this would be cringe worthy if wb’s were better than the boks . that just isnt the case this year.

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