Paris is a city of goodbyes and hellos. A city of romance, a city of renaissance, a city of culture and a city of treasure.
For those with an open heart and a fearless understanding of themselves, Paris has been a new canvass, an unwritten word and open stage of countless masterpieces and love stories. Paris should never leave you guessing as it is definitive as it expressive.
And this is exactly what Robbie Deans and Wallabies should personify when they take on the 2011 Rugby World Cup runners up at Stade-de France on November 10.
The impending Wallaby tour is the ideal opportunity for Deans and Australia to rediscover and reinvent themselves as a united, focused and attacking rugby team that can not only score tries but tries worthy of the talent the players posses.
Despite a victorious home series against current European champions Wales and an epic face-saving draw with the All Blacks, any apprentice historian of Australian rugby could tell you that the Wallabies have lost a certain creativity that needs to be found if they are to evolve into champions.
In Paris, Deans returns to arguably the scene of his finest victory as coach of the Wallabies. In 2010 Australia played one of the most expressive and definitive second halves of rugby by any Wallaby team and won the test 59-16, after being 13-13 at the break.
It comes as no surprise when you consider Will Genia, Quade Cooper, James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale were fit, coupled with the devastating form of Adam Ashley-Cooper and Drew Mitchell, who finished the match with three tries to his name. This was a masterpiece performance of running rugby.
While there have been no wholesale changes at the selection table, in an effort to unearth talent for this tour, the match is Paris could see the renaissance of long established Wallabies such like Cliff Palu and Drew Mitchell, coupled with the continued emergence of the talented Michael Hooper, Mike Harris and Ben Tapaui.
This coming Test could be a definitive moment in the evolution of Kurtley Beale as an international fly half. Time will tell, however looking back in time, Paris has been the venue for some classic individual and definitive Wallaby performances.
In 1993 Australia were victorious 24-3 against a highly rated French team that included names such as Cecillon, Roumat, Sella, Lacroix and current coach Saint-Andre; legends of French rugby. The day however belonged to the running game of Micahel Lynagh who weaved, stepped and danced his way through the French defence.
Lynagh was direct and flat – that created opportunity off both shoulders. It was an expressive and definitive Lynagh performance, which Kurtley Beale could learn much from.
When the Wallabies returned in 1998, Australia triumphed 32-21 after trailing 21-20 at half time. In front of 75,000 passionate Gauls, Toutai Kefu announced to the rugby world he was a number 8 to be reckoned with. Kefu ran directly, tackled ferociously and outplayed both Lievremont brothers and Oliver Magne in a dominant display of back row rugby.
Kefu’s second half performance was one that can be held in the same esteem as Greg Cornelsen in 1978 and Mark Loane in 1979 against the All Blacks and Tim Gavin against the English in 1991. Kefu was superb that day, in an expressive and definitive performance.
Perhaps the return to Paris may jog some muscle memory and the Wallabies will remember the advantages of continuity of possession, taking on the line and competing with your opposition – aspects of the game lost on the Wallabies in much of 2012.
With recent and much deserved criticism, the Wallabies and Robbie Deans each have an opportunity to reinvent and rediscover themselves as a rugby team and coach. One feels they have passed through the dark ages with several of their performances in the inaugural Rugby Championship. The Wallabies simply can’t play defensive rugby and expect to evolve.
The Wallabies have proved they can take a hit but they need to develop an attacking left-right combination. It’s time to say goodbye to dour defensive rugby and say hello to offensive running play, otherwise the Wallabies will wilt on the vine.
Australian rugby desperately needs a renaissance on the park. The Wallabies need to rediscover their culture and, for their own benefit, give the anxious Australian rugby public a definitive and expressive performance of rugby that will rekindle the romance again.
Perhaps another Parisian masterpiece awaits them? Time will tell.
If it is to be failure however, maybe the revolution at the ARU is not over yet and it will be time for Monsieur Deans to say ‘Adeiu’ to Australian rugby.