ARU gives Deans a big tick and backs him as Lions tamer
Coached a Wallabies side in 2012 that was hamstrung by injuries … Robbie Deans. Photo: Simon Alekna
AUSTRALIAN RUGBY UNION chairman Michael Hawker insists there is no added pressure on Wallabies coach Robbie Deans heading into the final year of his contract, admitting the ARU was ''happy'' with how his side was travelling.
The ARU also announced a constitutional change after eight months of preparation, adopting an independent governance style structure.
While the ARU's results off the field have been satisfactory, on-field efforts are still a source of unease.
The Wallabies have dropped to No.3 in the world and have had a lacklustre 12 months but Hawker believes recent results aren't a fair indication of the position Australian rugby finds itself in.
''You've got to put the Wallabies' performance in context with how many injuries we've had,'' Hawker said. ''We've had 55 people play for the Wallabies this year which is a pretty poor number of players, so we've had an unusual level of injury rate.
''That's something we're looking at as to why that occurred and how we might be able to do about that. We can actually improve the better player management process between the ARU and the Super Rugby franchises to make sure the player welfare is managed right collectively across those two levels of the game.
''When you've got a team that has playmakers such as [Will] Genia, [James] O'Connor, [Quade] Cooper, [David] Pocock and [Kurtley] Beale, who didn't play the whole year … If you took [Dan] Carter and Richie McCaw out of the New Zealand team, you'd have a different proposition. We had five major playmakers out of our game and we had a pretty good record.''
Next year is important for the Wallabies, who will go head-to-head with the British and Irish Lions in Australia for the first time in 12 years.
While Deans is no certainty to remain at the helm beyond 2013, Hawker conceded the ARU was comfortable with him in charge.
''From the Australian Rugby Union, we're happy with where the Australian team is, Hawker said.
''We'd like to have less injuries and I think if we didn't have as many injuries, we would've been right at the top. Next year is a huge year with the Lions making a once-in-12-year journey down here. Having just come from the northern hemisphere, people are hugely excited over there to be here. It always creates a huge wave of anticipation seeing the best of the northern hemisphere come here. We're pretty keen to try and thump them. They're going to be a very competitive side and we're going to be a very competitive side and I think it's going to generate plenty of interest.
''I think the coaches think of every year as make or break … I don't think Robbie takes anything for granted. For us, I think everyone in the Australian public are keen to win all the games and so is Robbie. He'll do all he can. In the board's view, we have every chance in defeating the Lions next year.''