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All Blacks the test for Deans

Date

Rupert Guinness quizzed ex-Wallabies coach Eddie Jones and renowned former Australian players Al Baxter and Simon Poidevin on the 10 big issues affecting rugby.

Right man for the top job? ... Wallabies captain James Horwill.

Right man for the top job? ... Wallabies captain James Horwill. Photo: Reuters

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans may have had his contract renewed last year, but he still faces pressure to prove he is the best man to steer the national side to the next World Cup in England, judging by the opinion of four leading figures of the Australian game.

The Sun Herald posed 10 questions on the state of the game to former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones, former captain Simon Poidevin and retired prop Al Baxter, as well as Sun-Herald columnist Matthew Burke.

But Deans, whose appointment as Wallabies coach was extended by two years before last year's World Cup where Australia was third behind New Zealand and France, is not the only senior figure under pressure - Wallabies captain James Horwill still has to prove himself.

Potential skipper ... Will Genia.

Potential skipper ... Will Genia. Photo: Getty Images

Burke, disappointed by the Wallabies' World Cup showing, labels the ARU's re-signing of Deans before the World Cup in New Zealand as an ''oversight'' and said the Wallabies' ''performances have been below par''. He goes as far as to predict that ''someone else will be at the helm'' for the 2015 World Cup in England.

Jones, who coached the Wallabies to the final of the 2003 World Cup, is not as damming, but stresses Deans should keep the job ''if he starts beating the All Blacks'', which many rugby observers know is a demanding performance indicator, although within reach of the Wallabies.

Baxter believes Deans should be allowed time to settle in with the new coaching line-up that will be under him, but he is adamant that ''any decision'' on the Wallabies head coaching position with a view to the 2015 World Cup ''has to be made no later than the end of 2013 season''.

Whereas Poidevin, another who was disappointed by the Wallabies performances in the 2011 World Cup, warns the spotlight will be firmly on Deans, saying: ''Salvation for a run at the 2015 World Cup will be heavily scrutinised in what Deans can produce over the next two years.''

Horwill is clearly a captain who is popular, and while Burke and Baxter believe he is the ideal captain, Jones - despite admiring Horwill as a ''good young captain'' - believes Will Genia ''would be more inspirational and tends to play better with responsibility so I would hand the reins over to him''.

Poidevin thinks Horwill just needs more time in the role at Test level. The World Cup is a step-up for any captain and Horwill was less prominent as a player under its pressure. ''He can get there.''

It was clear too, by the panel's answers, the ARU should not think about a return to the NRL player recruitment drive of the early 2000s. ''Been there, done that,'' writes Burke. ''We need to spend more on developing more skilful players,'' says Jones. ''No, but I think we should make it easy for the other code's superstars to play union if they wish to,'' answers Baxter. Poidevin makes his point abundantly clear: ''There's loads of talent coming through our own ranks and I am not a fan of mercenaries as a general rule.''

THE 10 BIG ISSUES

1. Which team will be the top Australian franchise this year?

EJ: Reds or Waratahs … probably the Reds who have the greatest depth of talent of all the states. The Brumbies will fade but have done really well to re-establish themselves as a team with pride. Whoever did the Rebels' recruitment initially has a lot to apologise for - they have an incredibly unbalanced squad with a low team ethic; and the Force are a hard-working team.

AB: The Waratahs. It might seem like a big call as they have only won two from six games, but I think the team has shown enough impressive rugby in parts against the Reds, Highlanders, Sharks and Chiefs for me to pick them in the top spot. I also think an increasingly match-fit Wycliff Palu and a soon-to-return Rocky Elsom will make a significant difference in the close games later in the season.

SP: The Brumbies are set to humble their bigger spending, talent-heavy Australian cousins with a refreshing return to the basics of teamwork, hard work and expansive rugby. Jake White's recruitment has been a masterstroke. Look for a late-season revival from a Waratahs squad that, on paper, should be first and daylight second. Hard decisions lie ahead.

2. Should Robbie Deans be Wallabies coach at the next World Cup?

EJ: If Robbie starts beating the All Blacks in the next two years he should continue to the next World Cup. One gets the impression David Nucifora has a little too much power for a coach with a limited coaching record.

AB: It depends entirely on the Wallabies' performance over the next two years. Robbie will have a new set of assistant coaches and high-performance staff this year. The decision on whether he is the right man … can only be made once they have been given a chance to settle in. Any decision has to be made no later than the end of the 2013 season.

SP: Robbie orchestrated an excellent domestic season for the Wallabies, but the 2011 World Cup was disappointing, both in the style of game and a reluctance by Deans and the selectors to chop out-of-form players. Salvation for a run at the 2015 World Cup will be heavily scrutinised on what Deans can produce over the next two years.

3. Are rugby nations too obsessed with the four-year cycle of the World Cup?

EJ: Teams generally only prioritise the World Cup in the year of the World Cup and this is understandable - it means the other Tests have kept their credibility. One-off Tests in Asia [Tokyo and Hong Kong] for money stretch the credibility of Tests. They generally lack intensity and meaning.

AB: Yes, I think they are. It is the Olympic Games of our sport, so rightly has the standing, prestige and popularity of such an event, and certainly is the biggest regular tournament in which many of the smaller rugby nations compete. But for the larger rugby nations, such as Australia, I think the great risk of being obsessed with the World Cup cycle is that you allow teams (and administrators) to look to the cup as a fix-all and excuse for poor performance.

SP: Unfortunately the administrators and coaches of many of rugby's world powers use the World Cup cycle as a lame excuse for underwhelming performances. Every Test should be taken as the opportunity for the best players of a nation to prove themselves against the best players of another, in fierce combat.

4. Is James Horwill the right man to captain Australia?

EJ: Horwill is a good young captain. Will Genia, I think, would be more inspirational and tends to play better with responsibility so I would hand the reins over to him.

AB: Yes.

SP: ''Big Kev'' was exceptional for Queensland and the Wallabies domestically in 2011. The World Cup is a step-up for any captain and Horwill was less prominent as a player under its pressure. He can get there.

5. How do you rate the standard of play in the Super Rugby competition this year?

EJ: I think the standard of attack is average - but the defence and breakdown work is of a good quality. The attack lacks shape and fluency and the indecision of the referees at the tackle has increased the amount of purposeless kicking. Teams that are doing well are teams with a good work ethic and high team cohesion.

AB: Generally good, with the top New Zealand sides such as the Highlanders and Chiefs the most impressive.

SP: New Zealand and South African teams have set the pace, with our Australian teams dragging the chain. The style of rugby played by most of our teams up to round four was a waste of time.

6. How do you rate the standard of refereeing in the Super Rugby competition this year?

EJ: Glen Jackson is the best referee I have seen for a long while. He is knowledgeable, clear in his communication and refs the tackle exceptionally well. When he has a game, it is worth watching. Apart from Glen, the referees are too lenient on the tackler and tackle assist. For rugby to be a good game, the attack must have a slight advantage.

AB: Similar to the players, generally good; although I think some of the interpretations at the breakdown have been a little harsh on the attacking team at times.

SP: As a whole, the refereeing in the 2012 Super Rugby to date has been of a good standard - with the exception of a handful of zealots who do the game no favours.

7. Should there be more afternoon matches at Super Rugby and Test level?

EJ: Yes, but the game is paid for by TV and therefore must be played when ratings are highest. Maybe one game a week should be a 3pm kick-off - back to the past - with retro jumpers and a leather looking ball!

AB: Yes. It is better conditions to play in and better conditions to watch rugby in. However, it is the broadcasters who contribute the most money to rugby. So until the funding model changes (through increased gate takings, merchandising or sponsorship) then the broadcaster will rightly still have the final say.

SP: I was a spectator at the Waratahs v Sharks afternoon game - an absolute cracker with a fully engaged crowd. Should be more of them.

8. What rule needs to be changed?

EJ: The injury rule - I think you play on if there is an injury. Unless it is a spinal injury, the game should not stop. Have 12 interchange from seven reserves. We must increase the speed of the game to allow attack to flourish.

AB: It would be nice to see rucking at the breakdown treated differently by the referees at the most senior levels of the game. The laws still allow for rucking of the ball at the breakdown, but the referees often rule on anything to do with rucking quick, narrowly. I think if more rucking was allowed, then the speed of the ball at the breakdowns would increase as there would be less people leaving their feet at the ruck or holding onto the ball on the ground.

SP: Local derbies across Super Rugby should see two bonus points earned for any team who scores four tries to discourage the ''mate versus mate'' arm wrestles.

9. Should Australian rugby recruit any more NRL stars?

EJ: No! That was done and very successfully. But we need to spend more on developing more skilful players. The second-best coach in Australia should run the ARU's junior national squad to ensure we produce skilful players.

AB: Actively recruit? No, but I think we should make it easy for the other code's superstars to play union if they wish. If the game has the financial capacity to do it and there is a genuine desire from NRL, AFL or soccer stars (players and coaches) to be involved in rugby, and not to simply use it as a negotiating tool, then I think it is good for the game.

SP: There's loads of talent coming through our own ranks and I am not a fan of mercenaries, as a general rule.

10. How do you fix scrums?

EJ: When you have contest, you will have problems. The scrums are pretty good. If you don't want problems, you go to league scrums (that's what league did) and we don't want that. Scrum defines rugby. Referees can be better educated for cues to problems.

AB: By simply shortening the call at the senior level to ''crouch, engage''. The call takes five to seven seconds, with players in a position similar to sprint athletes in the final set position trying to anticipate a long, slow call.

SP: Allow only one reset, then straight to a bent-arm penalty that does not give the option of a new scrum.

Related Coverage

Super Rugby 2015

Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Report Stats
BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Report Stats
BUL 17 vs STO 29 Report Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Report Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Report Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Report Stats
HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Report Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Report Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Report Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15 vs BRU 20 Report Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Report Stats
LIO 19 vs STO 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 17 vs HIG 20 Report Stats
BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU 10 vs LIO 13 Report Stats
RED 5 vs WAR 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT 20 vs BUL 39 Report Stats
STO 29 vs SHA 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 30 vs BLU 23 Report Stats
FOR 17 vs REB 21 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 34 vs LIO 6 Report Stats
HIG 26 vs WAR 19 Report Stats
RED vs BRU 29 Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO 19 vs CHF 28 Report Stats
CHT 10 vs SHA 27 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG 13 vs HUR 20 Report Stats
REB 16 vs LIO 20 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 57 vs CHT 14 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 25 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
SHA 12 vs CHF 11 Report Stats
WAR 28 vs BRU 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 36 vs REB 12 Report Stats
RED 17 vs LIO 18 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 37 vs CHT 27 Report Stats
HIG 39 vs STO 21 Report Stats
WAR 23 vs BLU 11 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA 15 vs FOR 9 Report Stats
BUL 31 vs CRU 19 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR 25 vs STO 20 Report Stats
REB 23 vs RED 15 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF 23 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
BRU 20 vs CHT 3 Report Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA 10 vs CRU 52 Report Stats
LIO 22 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU 16 vs BRU 14 Report Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 20 vs HIG 25 Report Stats
WAR 18 vs STO 32 Report Stats
FOR 15 vs CHT 24 Report Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO 23 vs SHA 21 Report Stats
BUL 43 vs RED 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 9 vs CHF 26 Report Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR 24 vs WAR 29 Report Stats
HIG 30 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
BRU 8 vs REB 13 Report Stats
FOR 6 vs STO 13 Report Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA 10 vs BUL 17 Report Stats
CHT 17 vs RED 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF 35 vs FOR 27 Report Stats
BRU 31 vs HIG 18 Report Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 29 vs BLU 15 Report Stats
WAR 18 vs REB 16 Report Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO 34 vs CHT 29 Report Stats
STO 15 vs BUL 13 Report Stats
RED 19 vs HUR 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG 48 vs SHA 15 Report Stats
BRU 10 vs WAR 13 Report Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 41 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
HUR 29 vs CRU 23 Report Stats
REB 16 vs CHF 15 Report Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT 25 vs STO 17 Report Stats
BUL 35 vs LIO 33 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU 58 vs RED 17 Report Stats
REB 42 vs BLU 22 Report Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR 32 vs SHA 24 Report Stats
FOR 18 vs WAR 11 Report Stats
LIO 28 vs HIG 23 Report Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
STO 25 vs BRU 24 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 23 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
RED 46 vs REB 29 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR 22 vs CHF 18 Report Stats
WAR 33 vs SHA 18 Report Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO 20 vs BRU 30 Stats
CHT 24 vs HIG 45 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF 34 vs BUL 20 Report Stats
RED 14 vs SHA 21 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 5 vs HUR 29 Report Stats
WAR 32 vs CRU 22 Report Stats
FOR 3 vs HIG 23 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT 17 vs LIO 40 Report Stats
STO 31 vs REB 15 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU 35 vs HUR 18 Report Stats
BRU 22 vs BUL 16 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA 25 vs REB 21 Report Stats
HIG 36 vs CHF 9 Report Stats
FOR 10 vs RED 32 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs CHT 01:05DHL Newlands
LIO vs WAR 03:10Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 17:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 21:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 15:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 17:35EP
RED vs CHF 19:40SS
CHT vs WAR 23:00FSS
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
STO vs LIO 01:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HIG 17:35EP
REB vs FOR 19:40AAMI
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU vs CRU 15:30GIO Stadium
CHF vs HUR 17:35Yarrow Stadium
WAR vs RED 19:40AS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL vs CHT 01:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 03:10Growthpoint Kings Park
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
View All Fixtures
Super Rugby 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Hurricanes 14 12 2 0 126 57
Brumbies 14 8 6 0 108 42
Stormers 13 9 4 0 42 38
Highlanders 14 10 4 0 116 48
Waratahs 13 9 4 0 50 41
Lions 14 8 6 0 -27 36
Chiefs 14 9 5 0 60 44
Bulls 14 7 7 0 23 36
View all
 
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