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Deans cruelled by Test scheduling and critics' short memories


Spiro Zavos

Bound to win one. Unfortunately it was against Australia ... Scotland celebrate their victory on Tuesday.

Bound to win one. Unfortunately it was against Australia ... Scotland celebrate their victory on Tuesday. Photo: Getty Images

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.

25 comments so far

  • Perhaps the grey haired lady should have said "You had to win twice. Sooner or later. Just like England and Ireland"

    Australia are in a completely different place to NZ and SA. Easily the weakest of the SH teams (at least in the opinion of the NH teams), and holding a ludicrously elevated position in the IRB rankings mainly due to the fact that they play the two best sides, NZ and SA, so often that they are bound to win occasionally and have their capability over-inflated.

    This is the year the wheels fall off for Australian rugby.

    Date and time
    June 09, 2012, 8:15AM
    • Some well made points except that under Deans, Australia has dominated South Africa. The other reason they are so high is that apart from New Zealand, every other country has had flaky results too.

      France losing to Tonga and Italy, South Africa losing at Murrayfield (and seemingly incapable of beating Australia) and the home nations unable to string two good seasons together. Perhaps Wales may change that trend.

      Date and time
      June 09, 2012, 8:18AM
    • "....mainly due to the fact that they play the two best sides, NZ and SA, so often that they are bound to win occasionally....."

      Lately the record is 6 wins from 7 games to Australia against SA. Is that what you call occasionally? NZ and Aus are 2 and 2 from the last 4. What other country in the World could boast two wins over the AB's in a 12 month period? Most have never beaten them once...... ever.

      Cripes, the World Cup win really has made some people get carried away. I'm just glad the Kiwis finally caught up to Aust and SA. We've been waiting a long time for the AB's to join the double RWC club.

      Sunshine Coast
      Date and time
      June 09, 2012, 9:31AM
    • What an extraordinary article. This was a plea for an incomeptnet coach rather than a critique of an embarrassing rugby side.
      Methinks Spiro knows Robbie a little too well.

      Date and time
      June 09, 2012, 10:06AM
    • Absolutely right. Australia has a complete lack depth in its attacking flair - once Beale, Cooper and O'Conner go - the latter two have not set the world on fire at Melbourne Rebels mind u - but u take those three out of the side and Australia has little creatively left in attack - Digby is great but he needs to get his hands on the ball and in space - not as easy to do at test level than it is in super 15 and he needs inside backs with the creative ability to put him into space regularly. McCabe - Fianga and Horne are good enough players but don't send shivers up any oppositions sides in defense as the lines they run are very predictable...Australia's tight five was YET AGAIN found wanting against Scotland at the set piece - the thorn no coach seems to be able to get out of the Wallabies side. Wales with destroy them tonight in the set piece and I think win the game - Right here right now - the Six Nations Champions are a better side whether Australian fans and their media have the guts to accept it or not - they are more in form - and are the best Welsh side we have seen in years - More pain coming the Wallabies way I think - but tonight they won't be able to blame anything or anybody - Wales are simply a better team at the moment. If Wallabies get up they will need some luck go their way and some! And the Wallabies no2 world ranking right now is extremely flattering - they will not have that ranking come the end of the Tri-Nations - Perhaps even by the end of the Welsh series!

      Date and time
      June 09, 2012, 11:45AM
  • Scotland have beaten us twice actually. Are we turning into a nation of whingers ? Sure the scheduling was a bit rough. The no2 team in the world should have the depth to win such games.. Was the schedule responsible for playing into the wind first half? The focus leading up to the match was all about who would play at no. 10. Who would be playing at 1,2,3,4 and 5 might have been more relevant ! Lowly Scotland pushed us off the park! Maybe Deans should send our lot to train in southern NZ more often, might toughen them up a bit .Hopefully todays team can cope with much stronger opposition.

    Date and time
    June 09, 2012, 8:25AM
    • For those of u who argue the Wallabies record and last year in particular against the All Blacks and Spring Box - u forget that SA sent out a B-team in the Tri- Nations and NZ rested a lot of their best players as well - their is also no doubt - and admitted begrudgingly by the Australian media, that the Wallabies got the benefit of some of the most generous refereeing at the breakdown against SA in the Quarter final of the World Cup - I'm not one to blame referees for teams losing but in that game I think the Box had every reason to complain, and some - so don't get an over inflated opinion about the Wallabies performances last year when teams were fielding below strength sides before the WC where Australia and Deans did not because they were desperate to get some momentum going after the loss to Samoa - They got completely outplayed by Ireland and totally smashed up front by the All Blacks in the semi where McCaw completely out played Pocock at the breakdown and with a painful foot as well - proving he is still - along with Carter - the greatest player of his generation and the benchmark no7 of the game. Wales by 10 tonight and a serious second reality check fro the Wallabies and some of their media. Without Cooper, Beale and O'Conner where the creative spark going to come? from?

      Date and time
      June 09, 2012, 12:00PM
    • It doesn't explain six wins from the past seven matches including the last two in South Africa.

      Date and time
      June 09, 2012, 3:21PM
    • @Ed, this really isn't an explanation but I possibly need to point out the Boks were coached by, a majority view by myself and other rugby lovers, a fruit loop, incompetent De Villiers. i think had SA appointed a good coach, i believe the results may have been a little different...but hey, that's only what I think.

      Date and time
      June 09, 2012, 4:49PM
  • Spiro,
    Please stop being such an apologist for Robbie. Why did he have a specialist loose head on the tight head side and a specialist tight head on the loose head side for that vital scrum. His use of his bench and his tactics were found wanting,just the same as in the World Cup in particular the Ireland game. He is obviously out of his depth as a motivator and a tactician. He may have been good at the Crusaders where he had a good rugby culture around him and even you could have been a successful coach. But rugby tactics are fluid and always changing and I'm afraid Robbie is out of date.

    Date and time
    June 09, 2012, 8:30AM

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