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Deans cops backlash of Jekyll and Hyde season


Spiro Zavos

Feeding the fire ... France contain the Wallabies in Paris.

Feeding the fire ... France contain the Wallabies in Paris. Photo: Getty Images

THE tendency of the Wallabies to lose Tests after some convincing performances is driving fans mad. A poll this week on Rugby Heaven showed that 75 per cent of 12,000 voters supported David Campese's trenchant call for the sacking of coach Robbie Deans. A thrashing by France fired up the Campese attack and the fans' support. The Test before this debacle, the Wallabies drew with an All Blacks side that had won 16 straight.

The Test season started with the Wallabies coming off a third-place in last year's World Cup, playing an unfancied Scotland side. On a freezing night at Newcastle, in driving rain, the Wallabies gave up a penalty on time from a scrum collapse. The penalty kick was successful. The Scotland Test had been pencilled in as a certain Wallabies victory. The unexpected loss changed the dynamics of the season. The pressure was relieved somewhat with three successive victories over the Six Nations champions, Wales. The clean sweep of the series was clinched with a penalty kick right on time, a reverse of the Scotland outcome.

The season was saved. Perhaps not. Two successive defeats to the All Blacks followed. The second at Eden Park had the Wallabies scoreless for the first time in 40 years. The ''Woeful Wallabies'' tag was revived. There was a temporary salvation with victories over the Springboks and the Pumas at home. Disaster struck again with an emphatic loss to the Springboks in South Africa. And then salvation, once again, came with a victory against the Pumas in Argentina and the draw against the All Blacks at Brisbane.

But the Wallabies, after their defeat at Paris, are once again like Pauline in the kids' serial tied to the railway tracks and a train in the form of a confident England side is relentlessly pushing on towards them on Sunday night.

My predecessor on this rugby column, Evan Whitton, arguably the most gifted journalist of his generation, always insisted: ''If you get the narrative right, you'll get the story right.''

The narrative of this Perils of Pauline season of the Wallabies coincides with the success and failure of the scrum. When the scrum works, the Wallabies win. When it fails, the Wallabies lose.

This is the historical pattern for the Wallabies. The only time in the professional era when the Wallabies have consistently won most of their Tests was when Rod Macqueen was coach. His Wallabies had strong props and pushing second-rowers, an aspect of John Eales's game that has been underrated.

One of the keys to the All Blacks' consistency in recent years has been the development of a specific pushing second-rower and Brad Thorn has been the standout. There is comfort (hopefully) for Wallabies supporters in Sitaleki Timani's comments that ''a big thing for me is … to make a difference in the scrum.'' The message from the big second-rower is that great srummaging involves more than grunt from the front row. Andrew Blades, the Wallabies scrum guru, made the point, too, that against France, the Wallabies forwards were too keen to get involved with the next phase of play rather than pushing. This allowed France to milk penalties by holding the ball in the scrum. The Wallabies have to be prepared for England to work the same ploy.

Under the new engagement mantra of ''crouch, touch, set'' there have been fewer collapses and more real scrum contests. England, a team with a scrummaging obsession, will fancy their chances of destroying the Wallabies' scrum and the team's prospects of victory. The Wallabies have shown this season they can scrum well. So if England's momentum is stopped, with one bound the Wallabies can leap free to record a splendid victory. That, anyway, is the Australian version of how this week's episode of The Perils of Pauline should unfold.


17 comments so far

  • Regardless of whether the Wallabies win or lose, there is no room for Deans any more. He has to go. Campese was right, we meed a team that try to win games, not lose them with the least amount of damage.

    Date and time
    November 17, 2012, 12:22PM
    • Bla bla bla boring borning boring. nobody really cares if the Wallabies win tonight WE or atleast most of us Want Deans and his useless caoching staff GOOOOOONNNEEEE. not even 100-0 will placate the massive disappointments of the last 4 years.

      Date and time
      November 17, 2012, 1:51PM
      • The Wallabies will beat England handsomely tonight and reclaim the #02 spot in the IRB rankings. The Wallabies tend to be drama queens who have the ability to consisently piss off their supporters with poor displays.

        Jackson, NSW
        Date and time
        November 17, 2012, 6:29PM
        • And it is this inconsistency, regardless of today's result, that should signal the end of Deans reign as coach. I notice that Samoa have also beaten Wales today in Cardiff. Not taking anything away from an improving Samoa team, perhaps the success earlier in the year against the current six nations champs should also be taken into context.

          Date and time
          November 17, 2012, 9:51PM
          • so there we have it - a 20:14 full time score!
            Spiro, you're absolutely correct on the relationship between the scrum and the team's performance. Tonight Oz dominated the English scrum and Oz won. Forget the useless and distracting arguments about Deans. Get the scrum right and the rest will follow. ONYA Wallabies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            adam west
            Date and time
            November 18, 2012, 3:55AM
            • I am not a big Deans fan. I loved what Campese did on the field but I don't like his continual negative snipping at all things Wallaby. We all know how many top line ex-players have the chance /choice to coach or get involved with the media. Those who take the soft option should appreciate just how hard it is to coach. At least Kafer had a go at Senior level before he went into the media, not many others have. ASK them why. Campese should suggest in his rants who he thinks should replace Deans and why. I would love to know who he thinks will do a better job.

              Coach's Comment
              Sunshine Coast
              Date and time
              November 18, 2012, 10:49AM
              • As usual Campese is proven to be wrong. When will the press realise that he knows very little about rugby and stop quoting him. It makes the scribes look like they know nothing as well.

                Date and time
                November 18, 2012, 10:49AM
                • So the Qantas Wallabies scraped home against that pathetic English team and they're courageous heroes yet again? Give me a break! Regardless of the IRB rankings this was at best a battle between 4th and 5th. Argentina, Samoa, Ireland and Scotland could all argue I'm being unfair to them.

                  English rugby has long had three strengths. They kick well, their loose forwards kill the ball and they scrum quite well. Last night they had nothing but kicking. Oh yes, we've noticed they keep the ball in hand more these days, but let's face it, only their Samoan and Kiwi imports look like they actually know which direction they're meant to run towards. Even their South African midfielder has aquired the classic English running manner of a Monty Python

                  Of course the boastful bleating of Australians will continue for a short while before it is inevitably replaced by shock and dismay as another predictable defeat at the hands of a more respectable team completes the endless looping cycle.

                  Mercifully for Wallaby fans, the harsh reality of rugby season is nearly at an end. Summer is nearly upon us and we can read in the SMH all about how 2013 will be Australia's year. We will read about how the scrum is now among the world's best, that the many scrum failings are just an unfair perception, about a new generation of tough uncompromising tight forwards, about genius playmakers maturing into wise men and that adversity (losing a lot) has forged a hardened world beating team. Of course we will read that surely next year the Bledisloe will return to the lucky country.

                  Enjoy the silly season Australia. It's when the Wallabies are at their best.

                  Date and time
                  November 18, 2012, 12:46PM
                  • What a load of twaddle! You must must be a pom or NZ supporter??

                    PJ man
                    Date and time
                    November 19, 2012, 9:39AM
                  • Harsh

                    Date and time
                    November 19, 2012, 10:53AM

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