Robbie Deans: Should he stay or should he go?

PeterK Roar Guru

By PeterK, PeterK is a Roar Guru

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    Wallabies coach Robbie Deans prior to the Bledisloe Cup match between Australia and New Zealand. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

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    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.

    Man Management
    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.

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    The Crowd Says (88)

    • December 4th 2012 @ 3:43am
      Let the One King Rule said | December 4th 2012 @ 3:43am | ! Report

      Honestly, this adds nothing to the debate. The same complaints the anti-Deans camp routinely make are being aired, and will, inevitably, be met by the usual responses from the pro-Deans camp. The only difference is that the author has attached numbers to the arguments in order to come up with a frankly arbitrary measure out of 100.

      • Roar Guru

        December 4th 2012 @ 7:06am
        Who Needs Melon said | December 4th 2012 @ 7:06am | ! Report

        On the contrary, I think this is a pretty fair attempt at being as objective as possible about something inherently subjective. The sort of thing you would find in performance reviews of people (not just sportsmen) the world over.

        There are other statistics you could use like win ratio, ranking, number of tries scored, line breaks for and against, etc. and most would just reinforce the majorities subjective assessment which is that Deans isn’t working out for us.

        As others more knowledgable than I on this site will tell you, Deans is probably NOT the biggest impediment to improvement in Australian rugby… but I think it’s time for an exercise such as the NZRU performed after their previous failed World Cup. They ended up reappointing Henry and some would say Deans wasn’t genuinely considered as a candidate. But we haven’t even had the semblance of a sham process here – just a mysterious reappointment BEFORE the World Cup.

        • Roar Guru

          December 4th 2012 @ 9:34am
          PeterK said | December 4th 2012 @ 9:34am | ! Report

          Thank you

          I considered win/loss ratio, world cup performances etc but most of those metrics were big picture and had been argued back and forth. I wanted to go into the detail and rate those.

      • Roar Guru

        December 4th 2012 @ 9:32am
        PeterK said | December 4th 2012 @ 9:32am | ! Report

        I obviously disagree.

        It makes someone be thorough and consider all aspects and also consider how important each area is ie weight them.

        I would love a Pro Deans person to put their own version up.

        I am not anti deans for the sake of it. I was pro Deans when he started then as the playing standard deteriated and any rugby smarts were lost I re-evaluated and came to the conclusion that his time was up.

        • December 4th 2012 @ 9:08pm
          Hightackle said | December 4th 2012 @ 9:08pm | ! Report

          I disagree with your analysis completely becuz it does not take into account the reality on the battlefield, the players Aus has, the opponents Aus has faced but instead trys to break it down into black and white units which actually fall way short of an analysis that has any real meaning.
          I mean how can you score Deans on Aus’ ability to maul or scrum? Absurd.
          I think its time for Deans to move on and I have my own reasons but I dont see Aus being the 2nd in the top 10 for win/loss/draw as any reason to panic or place blame on the coach.
          I think you would be better served looking at the talent Aus has at its disposal and simply asking yourself whether, under the circumstances, Aus is performing to its potential. I would suggest that, with the MASSIVE injury toll of 2011, the Aus team has overachieved. Is that due to Deans? Prolly not but the ability of Aus in the maul and scrum is def not due to Deans.

          • December 7th 2012 @ 10:37pm
            Gnostic said | December 7th 2012 @ 10:37pm | ! Report

            “Overreached”. That is laughable. Before the great injury crisis Deans supporters were decrying the lack of depth in Australia. The great injury crisis has shown what a crock that whole argument was which many of us argued right from the start. Players like Tapuai and Cummins would never have got a shot if not for injruies. There are still others who have shown huge talent and potential AND actual form who haven’t got a chance. Mowen, White, Pyle just to name three. Now just consider the situation of White, he was told he wasn’t needed for the Wallabies as he wasn’t even considered in the top three halves. Off he goes to have his knee reconstructed as an elective surgery instead of waiting for the Wallaby call up which he indicated he was fit for. Genia is injured and suddenly there is a shortage of halfbacks in Australia. We do not even have to discuss the continued selection of Phipps as starting halfback despite better options being available.

            No, the injury crisis showed Deans for what he is, a conservative, no risk, coach who is unable to truly unearth talent that isn’t individual “X factor” types that arrive with massive media coverage and a chorus of angels singing their status of messiah of Australian Rugby. He is stubborn to the point of fault.

            I too disagree with the article though, simply because it rates Deans too highly and the weightings are somewhat out of proportion to my belief. The statement that the Wallabies forward pick and drive has improved is patently untrue as very few forward drives make the gain line let alone break it.

            I gave up on the use of statistics long ago in this argument simply because no matter what any side presents it will be argued bent to fit the position the presenter wishes to support or negate. For mine the only metric that matters is can I sit and watch them play. The answer to that is no. The Wallabies under Deans are simply unwatchable, the skill levels, the game plans, the application are all so pitiful that they are simply unwatchable, and judging by the TV ratings so many other Rugby fans agree. For the first time in 30 years I stopped getting up to watch the OS tests and struggled to watch the replays.

            Finally those who support Deans have variously labeled many who rationally argue for Deans sacking, or at least opposed the re-appointment, as xenophobic, haters and many other negative labels. Labels such as these are designed to suppress the debate and debase the arguments presented by attacking the standing of those who present them and to my mind they say much more about the people trying to stifle the debate through such means than those so labeled.

            • December 7th 2012 @ 10:50pm
              Mike said | December 7th 2012 @ 10:50pm | ! Report

              ““Overreached”. That is laughable.”

              Indeed it is, because what he actually wrote was “overachieved”.

              Your argument is tripe. The injury crisis was real and still is. The same thing will happen next season if we do not address the real issues in Australian rugby, instead of shallow analysis like this.

              Tapuai has shown promise, but also some defects at test level. He is a good selection but hasn’t been brought on too soon. Cummins time of selection was about right. Pyle, Mowen, White? Yeah, possibly – but we hear this all the time – “X player must be picked; he looks good in S15” – and every punter has a different idea of who “must” be picked.

              “For the first time in 30 years I stopped getting up to watch the OS tests and struggled to watch the replays.”

              Suit yourself. I hope you are consistent and therefore do not purchase test tickets either – more for the rest of us.

    • December 4th 2012 @ 4:17am
      Johnno said | December 4th 2012 @ 4:17am | ! Report

      He’s gotta go, and a economy ticket back on virgin blue to christchurch. Not a business class ticket on Air NZ. Sorry Dingo you can stay in economy. You have earn’t a pass mark in aussy rugby Robbie Deans as these opinion in the article state. Done well at times but not good enough now to stay on In my opinion and many aussy rugby fan’s opinion.

      This whole injury conspiracy theories harming the wallabies to such a massive extent, is overrated and I will explain why.

      Ask your self who did we truly miss in aussy rugby, being out.

      -Was it Quade “remember him cooper”. No- Beale did a better job
      -Was it Pocock- No Micheal Hooper did a better job never seen Pocock ever play with the same energy as Hooper, and that includes pocock’s Q/Final vs STH Africa. Hooper’s running game troubled every team including the AB’S, i’ve never seen Pocock trouble the AB’S like Hooper did, how good was he all year. His match vs England wow outstanding, and under-20 captain Liam Gill what a star he is too.

      Horwill- No – Big 6’8 timani and kane Douglas and Sharpe massive impresive- I won’t include Vickerman as he had to retire, but even Vicks wasn’t missed as he was in his career twilight and they lost nothing from BIG Timani/ and Douglas.
      And Nathan Sharpe stepped up big time in Horwill’s absence and in my view is a better captain too.

      – Palu played a lot of the tests this year anyway like the wales series and the europe tour and Pocock played the whole wales series too., and when he didn’t Radike Samo stepped up aduequetly at times very very good like at Rosario.

      -Digby Ioane played majority of year

      -Barnes and Mike Harris were fine at fullback so they didn’t lose JOC that much.

      -Only will Genia was truly missed. But a lot of the time Nick Phipps played very well anyway. Gold Coast, Rosario, and Brisbane vs the AB’S come to mind, and he played well VS England too. So not much lost there.

      -And Genia is far from perfect anyway, he is not as good a captain as Nathan Sharpe, and he box kicks too much, and seems sometimes lost of tactics. Phipps is not as good, but the gap is not massive. And Brett Sheean stepped up big time too.

      Luke Burgess was a big loss to aussy rugby , but he can’t be counted amongst players on injured list as he went to play French club rugby.

      The front row was fine overall too, Ben Alexander is better than Sekope Kepu anyway, so we saw him shine, and our supposed no 1 prop who was injured last year Ben Robinson played the whole season anyway. And James slipper got fit again too.

      For me Ben Alexander is now our no 1 prop.

      And TPN played a full season too unlike last year, where Saia Faianga was the back up hooker

      So all in all the injury crisis was overrated.

      -And was Pat Mcabe really missed during the last part of the Euro tour, with Ben Tapuai replacing him, hardly .

      Tapui also stepped up big time at O/C vs the AB’S when Pat Mcabe played at I/C.

      -And AAC was available all year too or most of year only missed 1 or 2 games at best.

      -So the injury thing in Robbie Deans defence as shown here was overrated, as aussy rugby has shown itself to have depth or players of equal standard.

      -For me it’s the tactual desicons of Deans, not getting the game plan flowing enough during matches.

      Or it could be the lack of alignment between the ARU and super rugby teams. Either way for the reasons I have given a change is needed so sack Deans. And I would go with Ewan Mckensie, or World cup winning head coach in 2007 Jake White.

      -The Lions series will be so tough , so much depends on it for aussy rugby future, going to generate $70 million we need the best coach possible to beat them and I think Link and Jake White 1 of them is the right candidate. We need fresh ideas ,Deans has had 5 years with this team and hasn’t advanced them forwad.

      And experts are very sceptical on Deans too. Knuckles Connolly, Alan Jones, and Wayne Smith.

      JON has resigned now too, did he appoint deans to 2013 I don’t know or was it the board. But JON has left and timing wise I think some fresh ideas are needed as head coach. Robbie Deans is a good head coach, but he is no Grahame Henry. As the AB’S senior players many of them Ritchie Mccaw no less wanted Grahame Henry ahead of Deans. Deans will do well, in rugby coaching too but I think in his 5 years as head wallaby coach he has taken the wallaby far enough.

      TIme for a new coach in 2013 for such an important series in Australia’s rugby future vs the Lions.

      • Roar Guru

        December 4th 2012 @ 7:00am
        Shop said | December 4th 2012 @ 7:00am | ! Report

        The NZRU will upgrade his ticket for services to NZ rugby I’m sure.
        He’s done a hell of a job for them since being in Oz.

      • December 4th 2012 @ 12:21pm
        GWS said | December 4th 2012 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

        U lost me at ‘beale did a better job’

        • Roar Guru

          December 4th 2012 @ 6:37pm
          Jiggles said | December 4th 2012 @ 6:37pm | ! Report

          Also the rubbishing of Horwill…

      • December 4th 2012 @ 9:51pm
        Hightackle said | December 4th 2012 @ 9:51pm | ! Report

        No the injury toll didnt mean anything.
        Pocok, Genia, Horwill, JOC, Beale, Palu, Moore, Alexander, Kepu, Barnes, Ioane, Timani, AAC, Mitchell, Cooper, McCalman and many many others being injured for 1,2, 3 or all of the games didnt effect the team at all. Having the capt and his replacement and his replacement ruled out didnt effect them either. Cooper throwing a hissy fit on national tv didnt and nothing did, not even the players playing 3 games in 6 days. Aust should have won more than 60% of their games, the should have won the 4 nats instead of coming 2nd. They should have won more than 4-0 against the 6 nats champs. They should have beaten SA twice to make it 10-4 against SA under Deans instead of 9-5. Instead of drawing with one of the best national sides ever assembled, they should have beaten NZ and under any other coach they would have.

        • December 4th 2012 @ 10:00pm
          Hightackle said | December 4th 2012 @ 10:00pm | ! Report

          NZ wouldnt miss Carter, McCaw, Read, Nonu, O.Franks, Woodcok, Romano, C.Smith, A.Smith and Cruden if they were all injured at the same time either.

          Dont be rediculous. Those players from Aust being injured had a massive impact and yet Aus had a better than ave year despite this.
          At one point they were down to their 5th choice #10 against Wales. Barnes was only used becuz Cooper, leleifano, JOC and Beale were all out.

          OK you want Deans to go and so do I but seriously dude.

      • December 4th 2012 @ 11:32pm
        Malo said | December 4th 2012 @ 11:32pm | ! Report

        Johnno you make little sense. I think it is time for McKenzie to have a crack, but you said everyone played well but bagged the two best players. Pocock who had absolute blinders at the world cup and I thought Genia played really well considering he had to cover for Quade who did not turn up. McCabe also did not play that bad and I thought he crossed the advantage line very effectively and his defense was fantastic. We lost to the ABs who were great. The scrum you say is great? WTF it has been crap since Eddie Jones was coach. Deans cannot be blamed for all our woes, nor our injuries but lack of depth due to the ruining of club rugby.

        • December 5th 2012 @ 12:18am
          Johnno said | December 5th 2012 @ 12:18am | ! Report

          Malo the scrum was fine overall this year. Ben Robinson was very good at times, Ben Alexander was quality alll year, TPN scrummaged fine, and Timani’s brute strength was good at scrum time, and sometimes we got our line out right.
          And Sharpe as it turned out was our best captain by a mile out of the aussy captains since Gregan.
          And not all players were out at one go.

          Like I said Genia was the only real genuine loss. Hooper did better than pock, Timani and Kane Douglas are as good as Horwill, Horwill doesn’t have timani’s physical power and never will.
          And Beale was better than Quade, and Tapui was better than Mcabe, and Ben Robinson was back all year , last year he barley played much rugby.
          Mcelman is no big loss c’mon guys. And Palu played far more rugby this year than last year, and Samo was fine all year too, for the wallabies.
          The Honey badger replaced JOC very well, .
          Barnes and Harris all did there job at fullback. And Ioane played most of year, so the injury thing was overrated.

    • December 4th 2012 @ 4:18am
      Billy Bob said | December 4th 2012 @ 4:18am | ! Report

      Oh Peter I was looking forward to a holiday from the discussion about Deans. The worms are out of the can now.
      They will wriggle and shout but they won’t shift the coach, even if that’s regarded as positive. They will just spill their poison, ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’.
      Oh well

    • Roar Guru

      December 4th 2012 @ 5:38am
      Shop said | December 4th 2012 @ 5:38am | ! Report


    • December 4th 2012 @ 6:42am
      Rob said | December 4th 2012 @ 6:42am | ! Report

      Rabble rabble rabble rabble.

    • December 4th 2012 @ 6:45am
      Red Block said | December 4th 2012 @ 6:45am | ! Report

      Agreed Johnno, where was the discussion about tactical nous?

      Australia have tried to play the same style all year (as the author points out) but where was the variance in tactics to play against different opposition. What was the plan to counter the rush defence, besides a grubber or a chip? For much of the year, it appeared the plan was to pick and drive as many times as possible and then kick it.

      The McKenzie band wagon grows larger. His dismantling of the title winning Chiefs at Suncorp was a master class in varying tactics to defeat the strengths of the opposition. It was clinically carried out by troops who knew their role and it was achieved on limited preparation and without some major stars.

      Deans could only lie in bed and fantasize about such variances.

      • Roar Guru

        December 4th 2012 @ 9:35am
        PeterK said | December 4th 2012 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        I covered this in the section on attack and the section on Tactics / Opposition Analysis (which they did not highlight).
        Scored low in both.

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