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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

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00Olym
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00Olym
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45Olym
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45Olym
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00KPS
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00Olym
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
France 0 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tonga 0 0 0 0 0 0
Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Romania 0 0 0 0 0 0
Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
South Africa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
 

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