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Lions series to decide Deans' fate



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.


HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45Leicester City Stadium
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
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 22:00Leicester City Stadium
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 07:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 3 3 0 0 97 13
Wales 3 3 0 0 58 13
England 3 1 2 0 1 6
Fiji 3 0 3 0 -49 0
Uruguay 2 0 2 0 -107 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 3 2 1 0 56 11
Scotland 3 2 1 0 40 10
Japan 3 2 1 0 -12 8
Samoa 3 1 2 0 -52 4
USA 2 0 2 0 -32 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 3 3 0 0 87 14
Argentina 3 2 1 0 64 10
Tonga 3 1 2 0 -22 6
Georgia 3 1 2 0 -71 4
Namibia 2 0 2 0 -58 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 3 3 0 0 84 14
France 3 3 0 0 72 14
Italy 3 1 2 0 -24 5
Canada 3 0 3 0 -71 1
Romania 2 0 2 0 -61 0
View all

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