He can rest easy, but Deans isn't home free
Big performance … Ben Tapuai puts the boot in. Photo: AFP
The restless nights now belong to another coach from New Zealand. Two weeks into November, Warren Gatland is dealing with a crisis in Wales - they do them so well - and an inbox full of half-hearted Lions resumés.
The lack of creativity in the halfbacks and five-eighths among the Home Unions is stark and if the English pack is an indication of the level of forward beastliness coming Australia's way, then the Wallabies will sustain a few nasty scratches but no fatal mauling. They were kittens compared with the warriors from Manu Samoa at Cardiff.
At Twickenham, Australia were tougher, better prepared tactically, more comfortable with the ball, technically superior at the set-piece and smarter. The only pity was that they didn't put England away in a spell midway through the second half when fluency returned to their game. Better sides would have, the Wallabies will know that, and a 15-minute spell in which they went into their shells will no doubt feature in this week's preparations.
Breaking away ... Michael Hooper was impressive. Photo: AFP
That will dovetail with familiar complaints about the Wallabies' attack, but you can't be greedy about the nature of your wins in Test rugby. An Australian side containing more flair turned up to Twickenham in 2010 and was promptly battered.
All of Saturday's outstanding players were in Australian colours. Michael Hooper stunned the hosts with his precocious gifts and tenacity, Berrick Barnes was tidy at the back, again comfortable under the high ball, and Nick Cummins is suddenly the form wing in the country. But there were two men who deserve a special mention: Ben Tapuai and Ben Alexander.
It took just six minutes for Tapuai to make his mark, making a half-break and popping an offload into the hands of Hooper. It set the scene for an afternoon in which his attack was promising and his defence was resolute. By contrast, his opposite, Brad Barritt, was anonymous and later replaced.
Robbie Deans had, somewhat stubbornly, locked down the No.12 jersey for the unlucky, injured Pat McCabe but that decision may now have to be re-evaluated. Tapuai deserves a run at it. That left peg is a handy tool, too. A solution might have fallen into Deans's lap out of circumstance rather than insight, but objections to that will fade if two more wins are secured before home time.
If Alexander has had a finer hour in a Wallabies' jersey, it is hard to recall. It is worth remembering the scene that had been set for the Australian scrum. England fans had turned up expecting an Andrew Sheridan moment but got a rather green loose-head prop wearing purple and sporting a mohawk taking a lesson from a man whose scrummaging is not his best trait even in the looser environment of Super Rugby. Alexander had only one lapse of concentration, against the replacement Mako Vunipola - who looks to be a handful - but then reasserted control.
On the other side, Dan Cole, a Lions certainty, was a ball of frustration and source of cheap penalties after failing to get a cent out of Benn Robinson. About the same time in Rome, Cole's Leicester cohort Martin Castrogiovanni was getting popped up and pushed back by All Black Tony Woodcock. All in all it was a bad day for the image of the English premiership's set-piece men.
Deans isn't out of the woods, of course. The first thing you should do upon noting that the All Blacks put 42 points on Italy is forget the scoreline. New Zealand ran in a couple of neat late tries, as is their way, but the Italians were almost unrecognisably positive for an hour. They have binned the containment game plan used under Nick Mallett and looked immeasurably better for it. At least Australia have been warned because they are not good enough - nor would they be even with a fully fit squad to choose from - to drop off against any opposition.
And that is where the Wallabies find themselves at the moment: in a small group of teams, which also contains South Africa and France, more likely to beat each other than wrestle the crown off the All Blacks. There will never be a day when that is good enough for Australia, nor it should be, but it's a better view than Gatland is looking at.