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Lions series to decide Deans' fate

Date

Brisbane

Robbie Deans' chances of pressing on to the 2015 World Cup rest heavily on the three-Test series against a hungry Lions squad.

Robbie Deans' chances of pressing on to the 2015 World Cup rest heavily on the three-Test series against a hungry Lions squad. Photo: AFP

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has shown he can walk a wobbly tightrope but there'll be no safety net in June when the Lions are unleashed.

In the biggest year for Australian rugby since the money-spinning 2003 World Cup, Deans' job goes on the line when the British and Irish Lions tour Australia.

He's already been somewhat fortunate - courtesy of grinding backs-to-the-wall wins in Perth, Rosario, London, Florence and Cardiff - to stay on for his sixth season as Wallabies coach.

But with his current two-year contract expiring in 12 months, Deans' chances of pressing on to the 2015 World Cup rest heavily on the three-Test series against a hungry Lions squad focused on ending a 16-year drought.

It would be no mean feat to beat them and the tourists should be bolstered by the nucleus of an exciting English outfit which upset world champion All Blacks 38-21 this month.

But Australia will also have to show some style, as well as results, to guarantee Deans a new deal at a time rugby is battling in the football code wars.

Bored fans have been turned off by pedestrian, predictable play, which was also trotted out in Super Rugby's Australian inter-state derbies.

Under Deans, the Wallabies' 2012 play was ugly, uninspiring and excruciatingly underwhelming - a stark contrast to their proud reputation as entertainers.

Fifteen tries from 15 Tests - their worst return in 33 years - doesn't paint the full picture but it says a lot more than the bare record of nine wins, five losses and a draw.

To be fair to Deans and his players, a long injury list hamstrung them as they dropped to No.3 in the world rankings.

That they recorded nine wins - including three unconvincing efforts from their last three encounters in Europe - is testament to guts, character and emergence of players like Michael Hooper, Sitaleki Timani and Ben Tapuai.

Deans can also thank Berrick Barnes and Mike Harris, whose goalkicking prevented the Wallabies' 2012 record ending in the red.

But guts, character and penalty goals aren't enough against the best teams.

Four of the nine wins came against Wales - three of which almost went the other way. Only one came against a fellow top-four side.

It says a lot about the Wallabies, and Deans' game strategies, that their best performance was a tryless 18-all draw in the Bledisloe dead-rubber against all-conquering New Zealand.

Creativity has been replaced by field position in a stodgy, kick-happy backline that is unable, and often unwilling, to run the ball effectively.

Such an approach has infuriated past greats like David Campese, who has consistently called for Deans' head.

Irreplaceable halfback Will Genia, skipper James Horwill and backline marvel James O'Connor - all sidelined by serious leg injuries this year - are crucial reinforcements for the Lions series.

Controversial playmaker Quade Cooper may have finally settled on a new contract with the Australian Rugby Union but it remains to be seen whether Deans will select him for the Lions series.

He is likely to have some ground to make up with Wallabies teammates, following his bombshell claim in September that the team environment was "toxic".

But the Wallabies badly need the X-factor that Cooper, when at his best, provides.

"He is exceptional. You see the rubbish the Wallabies are dishing up, they need him back," said former Wallabies fullback and Fox Sports commentator Greg Martin.

"South Africa and New Zealand are still scoring tries and we're not even trying."

The issues don't end there for the ARU, which wants to take more control of how much its leading stars play.

There's a significant divide between the governing body, currently in caretaker mode as it searches for a new CEO to replace John O'Neill, and the states, noted by former Sports Minister Mark Arbib in his review of the game.

Each union also must win back the fans or the code will continue to wilt.

To do that it mostly needs tries, through a return to positive and pro-active rugby.

Long-suffering NSW Waratahs fans will have hopes yet again that their team will turn the corner and provide some genuine excitment.

Fortunately early indications under new coach Michael Cheika are promising.

The Queensland Reds will aim to rediscover their 2011 title winning mojo with key halves combo Genia and Cooper putting serious injuries behind them.

This year's surprise packets the Brumbies should be better in their second season under Jake White but can't hope to fly under the radar, especially after recruiting David Pocock.

The Melbourne Rebels have to add some consistency to the moments of brilliance so often featuring Kurtley Beale and O'Connor.

Another long hard season appears in store for the Western Force with no Pocock and a lack of backline firepower despite some creative recruiting.

AAP

Super Rugby 2015

Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Stats
BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Stats
BUL 17 vs STO 29 Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Stats
HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Stats
CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15 vs BRU 20 Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Stats
LIO 19 vs STO 22 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs HIG 17:35WS
BRU vs FOR 19:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU vs LIO 17:35QBE Stadium
RED vs WAR 19:40SS
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT vs BUL 02:05FSS
STO vs SHA 04:10DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs BLU 17:35FMG Stadium
FOR vs REB 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs LIO 14:30AMI
HIG vs WAR 17:35FBS
RED vs BRU 19:40SS
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO vs CHF 00:00DHL Newlands
CHT vs SHA 02:05FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG vs HUR 17:35FBS
REB vs LIO 19:40AAMI
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs CHT 17:35AMI
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL vs FOR 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs CHF 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
WAR vs BRU 16:05AS
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs REB 17:35WS
RED vs LIO 20:00SS
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs CHT 14:30WS
HIG vs STO 17:35FBS
WAR vs BLU 19:40AS
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs FOR 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
BUL vs CRU 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs STO 18:35WS
REB vs RED 20:40AAMI
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs BLU 18:35WS
BRU vs CHT 20:40GIO Stadium
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs CRU 01:00Growthpoint Kings Park
LIO vs BUL 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BRU 18:35EP
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HIG 18:35AMI
WAR vs STO 20:40AS
FOR vs CHT 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
BUL vs RED 00:00Loftus Versfeld
LIO vs SHA 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs CHF 18:35AMI
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR vs WAR 15:30WS
HIG vs BLU 18:35FBS
BRU vs REB 20:40GIO Stadium
FOR vs STO 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA vs BUL 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
CHT vs RED 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF vs FOR 18:35WS
BRU vs HIG 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs BLU 18:35AMI
WAR vs REB 20:40ANZ
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO vs CHT 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BUL 04:10DHL Newlands
RED vs HUR 17:05SS
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG vs SHA 18:35FBS
BRU vs WAR 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs FOR 16:30EP
HUR vs CRU 18:35WS
REB vs CHF 20:40AAMI
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs STO 02:05FSS
BUL vs LIO 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs RED 18:35AMI
REB vs BLU 20:40AAMI
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs SHA 18:35WS
FOR vs WAR 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs HIG 00:00Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BRU 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BUL 18:35EP
RED vs REB 20:40SS
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs CHF 18:35WS
WAR vs SHA 20:40AS
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs BRU 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
CHT vs HIG 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF vs BUL 18:35Rotorua International Stadium
RED vs SHA 20:40SS
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HUR 18:35Emirates Airlines Park
WAR vs CRU 20:40ANZ
FOR vs HIG 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs LIO 02:05FSS
STO vs REB 04:10DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HUR 18:35Trafalgar Park
BRU vs BUL 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA vs REB 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
HIG vs CHF 18:35Rugby Park
FOR vs RED 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs CHT 02:05DHL Newlands
LIO vs WAR 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 18:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 16:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 18:35EP
RED vs CHF 20:40SS
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CHT vs WAR 00:00FSS
STO vs LIO 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HIG 18:35EP
REB vs FOR 20:40AAMI
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU vs CRU 16:30GIO Stadium
CHF vs HUR 18:35Yarrow Stadium
WAR vs RED 20:40AS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL vs CHT 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Super Rugby 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Brumbies 3 2 1 0 47 10
Hurricanes 3 3 0 0 47 13
Stormers 3 3 0 0 26 12
Cheetahs 2 2 0 0 7 9
Chiefs 3 3 0 0 31 13
Rebels 3 1 2 0 -5 6
Highlanders 2 1 1 0 1 5
Sharks 3 1 2 0 3 6
View all
 
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