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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 Stats
BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Stats
BUL 17 vs STO 29 Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Stats
HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Stats
CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15 vs BRU 20 Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Stats
LIO 19 vs STO 22 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs HIG 17:35WS
BRU vs FOR 19:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU vs LIO 17:35QBE Stadium
RED vs WAR 19:40SS
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT vs BUL 02:05FSS
STO vs SHA 04:10DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs BLU 17:35FMG Stadium
FOR vs REB 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs LIO 14:30AMI
HIG vs WAR 17:35FBS
RED vs BRU 19:40SS
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO vs CHF 00:00DHL Newlands
CHT vs SHA 02:05FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG vs HUR 17:35FBS
REB vs LIO 19:40AAMI
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs CHT 17:35AMI
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL vs FOR 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs CHF 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
WAR vs BRU 16:05AS
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs REB 17:35WS
RED vs LIO 20:00SS
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs CHT 14:30WS
HIG vs STO 17:35FBS
WAR vs BLU 19:40AS
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs FOR 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
BUL vs CRU 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs STO 18:35WS
REB vs RED 20:40AAMI
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs BLU 18:35WS
BRU vs CHT 20:40GIO Stadium
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs CRU 01:00Growthpoint Kings Park
LIO vs BUL 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BRU 18:35EP
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HIG 18:35AMI
WAR vs STO 20:40AS
FOR vs CHT 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
BUL vs RED 00:00Loftus Versfeld
LIO vs SHA 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs CHF 18:35AMI
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR vs WAR 15:30WS
HIG vs BLU 18:35FBS
BRU vs REB 20:40GIO Stadium
FOR vs STO 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA vs BUL 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
CHT vs RED 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF vs FOR 18:35WS
BRU vs HIG 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs BLU 18:35AMI
WAR vs REB 20:40ANZ
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO vs CHT 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BUL 04:10DHL Newlands
RED vs HUR 17:05SS
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG vs SHA 18:35FBS
BRU vs WAR 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs FOR 16:30EP
HUR vs CRU 18:35WS
REB vs CHF 20:40AAMI
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs STO 02:05FSS
BUL vs LIO 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs RED 18:35AMI
REB vs BLU 20:40AAMI
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs SHA 18:35WS
FOR vs WAR 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs HIG 00:00Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BRU 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BUL 18:35EP
RED vs REB 20:40SS
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs CHF 18:35WS
WAR vs SHA 20:40AS
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs BRU 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
CHT vs HIG 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF vs BUL 18:35Rotorua International Stadium
RED vs SHA 20:40SS
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HUR 18:35Emirates Airlines Park
WAR vs CRU 20:40ANZ
FOR vs HIG 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs LIO 02:05FSS
STO vs REB 04:10DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HUR 18:35Trafalgar Park
BRU vs BUL 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA vs REB 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
HIG vs CHF 18:35Rugby Park
FOR vs RED 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs CHT 02:05DHL Newlands
LIO vs WAR 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 18:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 16:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 18:35EP
RED vs CHF 20:40SS
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CHT vs WAR 00:00FSS
STO vs LIO 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HIG 18:35EP
REB vs FOR 20:40AAMI
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU vs CRU 16:30GIO Stadium
CHF vs HUR 18:35Yarrow Stadium
WAR vs RED 20:40AS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL vs CHT 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Super Rugby 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Brumbies 3 2 1 0 47 10
Hurricanes 3 3 0 0 47 13
Stormers 3 3 0 0 26 12
Cheetahs 2 2 0 0 7 9
Chiefs 3 3 0 0 31 13
Rebels 3 1 2 0 -5 6
Highlanders 2 1 1 0 1 5
Sharks 3 1 2 0 3 6
View all
 
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