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Deans cruelled by Test scheduling and critics' short memories

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WE were a miserable group, dripping wet, cold and shattered, coming back from Newcastle on the train after the agony of watching the Wallabies snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against Scotland. An over-lubricated Scottish supporter insisted on being high-fived while he shouted out: "We'ee beet yer!" Some minutes of this was quite enough for a grey-haired lady wrapped in Wallabies colours. "You had to win one," she gently told the braying Scot, "sooner or later". She was right.

And Scotland were helped by the scheduling, which gave the Wallabies hardly any time to properly prepare, by on-field mistakes of judgment and by the weather, which meant that the Wallabies had only 40 minutes to win the Test. After wrongly giving away the gale, the Wallabies drew level with Scotland after two minutes into the second half. The Wallabies were lulled into a false sense of security for the rest of the half. They froze, literally and metaphorically, when Scotland made their first and only attack in the second half with minutes left to play. Then came the fateful last scrum and the even more fateful last penalty shot at goal. This was Scotland's first Test win in Australia since 1982.

For the Wallabies, the defeat meant that for two successive years they have started the Test season with an upset loss. Last year Samoa defied the odds. So at the beginning of this Test season, as with last season, the knives are out for Robbie Deans. It's been pointed out that his overall winning Test record of 57.9 per cent is almost the same as Eddie Jones's record of 57 per cent before he was sacked.

But in the realm of lies, damned lies and statistics, opponents of Deans need to acknowledge that Jones inherited one of the great Wallabies teams, a side that had won the 1999 World Cup, defeated the British and Irish Lions in the 2001 series and was the holder of the Bledisloe Cup. Deans inherited a team that was eliminated in the quarter-finals of the 2007 World Cup and was only No.5 in world rankings. The Wallabies are now No.2. Last season, Deans's Wallabies had a 67 per cent winning record, despite the loss to Samoa. When Alan Jones suffered a Test loss as the coach of the Wallabies, he told his critics: "The dogs are barking but the caravan moves on."

The selection of the Wallabies side to play Wales today in Brisbane shows that Deans has adopted the same robust approach. The stalwarts last year, most of them who did well at the 2011 World Cup, are to the fore in the run-on side on Saturday. Benn Robinson, who was injured last year, comes back into the starting side. There are two new caps in the 22-man squad, with Cooper Vuna starting on the wing and Nic White, the Brumbies' halfback, on the bench.

New Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer (a former coach of the Bulls) is playing three newcomers, two of them second-rowers, in the opening Test in the series against England. But tough and experienced Bulls players have been preferred to new Stormers stars in several positions. The captaincy goes to the Stormers captain, the veteran Jean de Villiers.

Steve Hansen also has three newcomers (giant second-rower Brodie Retallick, slick-passing halfback Aaron Smith and the new Jonah, Julian Savea) in the run-on All Blacks side that plays Ireland at Eden Park this afternoon. The rest of the side is made up of the champions of last year's World Cup.

The three coaches are at critical points in their careers. Deans has to stop the critics barking. Meyer and Hansen are hoping to entrench themselves. They have all followed the adage that "you can't beat experience" to get their caravans moving.