The 2015 World Cup rugby draw in progress. Photo: AFP
ROBBIE Deans says he wants to continue as Australian coach beyond next year and that the Wallabies are ''just getting started'' as a group.
Deans also said he remained ''a believer'' in Quade Cooper's talents and that the Wallabies had supported the playmaker during his struggles at the last World Cup.
The ARU signed a two-year extension to its deal with the former Crusaders coach in the lead-up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, under which Deans would continue as head coach until the end of next season.
Since then the Wallabies lost to New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final, lost to Scotland in Newcastle, made a clean sweep of Wales in the June internationals but endured a difficult Rugby Championship campaign, failing once more to win back the Bledisloe Cup, and losing to France on their spring tour to Europe, before beating England, Italy and Wales.
Most recently, against a backdrop of unprecedented injuries, the Wallabies finished the 2012 season third behind New Zealand and South Africa on the international rankings, after two seasons at No. 2.
Deans endured particularly intense scrutiny this year but appears to have achieved enough on tour, finishing the year with nine wins, five losses and one draw, to subdue critics who wanted him replaced before the British and Irish Lions tour in June.
Deans said he ''absolutely'' wanted to coach the Wallabies through the Lions tour and beyond.
''This group is just getting started,'' he said. ''The exposure of a few extra players this year has made a big difference to our group. You'll see it first in Super Rugby, [then] they'll all want to be involved in the Lions [series] and there's a lot of great rugby coming, and we've got a group who are becoming experienced and starting now to work their way through some of those moments of adversity, so they're starting to show some really good traits.''
Deans also weighed in for the first time on the Quade Cooper controversy, saying he hoped the Reds No. 10 would return to the Wallabies, and that he would be welcome.
He defended the Wallabies' treatment of Cooper at the World Cup. Cooper was booed continuously in New Zealand and his performance appeared to suffer as a result. In the recent speculation about Cooper, those experiences and the team's lack of support was cited as reasons for his unhappiness.
''To be frank I don't want to pore over history, obviously it was a tough time for everybody. We all at the time did everything we could to ensure that it was a good experience. We stood right alongside Quade,'' Deans said in response to claims Cooper was hung out to dry by the team.
''Let's not forget I'm the bloke that picked him first and continued to pick him, continued to back him. I'm a believer.''