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The Wallabies are England in disguise. There is no bigger insult than that

Date

New Zealand-based rugby journalist Mark Reason believes the current Wallabies have betrayed their tradition - and he places the blame on Robbie Deans.

Two years ago Kurtley Beale looked like the best fullback in the world.

Two years ago Kurtley Beale looked like the best fullback in the world. Photo: Simon Alekna

An obituary in affectionate remembrance of Australian rugby, which died in Paris on November 10, 2012. The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Canterbury.

Not everyone in New Zealand will be mourning the death of Australian rugby, but some of us will be there at the memorial service, head bowed, a tear in the corner of the eye. We are sad, because we do remember.

We remember Mark Ella, a five-eighth who bewitched us with his movement and his understanding of the lie of the land.

We remember David Campese playing keepy-uppy by himself while the All Blacks went all tribal with another matinee performance of the haka.

We remember Stephen Larkham moving tacklers with a shift of his wrists. We remember Ken Catchpole, John Hipwell, Nick Farr-Jones, George Gregan and Will Genia, halfbacks who seemed to make all things possible for the men outside them.

And this is what really hurts. The death of possibility. Australia have rarely been the best rugby team in the world, but they have frequently been the most romantic, the country most ready to have a go, men with a bit of larrikin and devil-may-care in their souls.

In Paris at the weekend Australia played with wretched cowardice. You could forgive them a couple of weeks ago when Australia sent one-off runners up the middle against the mighty All Blacks.

But that forgiveness just passed away. For Australia to play like bitter old men in the romantic capital of the world was a betrayal of the green and gold.

Australia have now gone 175 minutes without scoring a try. In the World Cup I had a bit of fun at Australia's expense by labelling them the Dullabies.

But that team was positively effervescent compared to this lot. The current Wallabies are a rabble of walking wounded, deserters and lost souls.

Two years ago Kurtley Beale looked like the best fullback in the world. Australia tore France apart in Paris, winning 59-16.

France put out a team of giant men, but they were completely humiliated by the pace and ball movement of Australia. French spectators were applauding the opposition.

Now Beale is a confused man playing out of position. He was out of his depth against little Frederic Michalak, a 30-year-old troubadour who was long ago discarded from international rugby.

On Saturday Michalak stepped past Beale as if he wasn't there to set up France's second try. And maybe Beale wasn't there, at least not in his head.

The buckaroo has to stop with Robbie Deans. Yes, he has a huge injury list, but right now players like George Smith, Luke Burgess, Quade Cooper and Matt Giteau would be worth their weight in green and gold. Unfortunately Dingo Deans barked them out of town.

Man management is a huge part of being an international coach. Graham Henry will tell you that. He lost a Lions tour against Australia despite having the better team because he alienated a number of his players.

But Henry learned and moved on. A huge part of the World Cup success was down to Henry's ability to keep his players onside. Deans strayed offside long ago.

After Saturday's game Philippe Saint-Andre said, "I think the Australians cracked mentally at some point." He was correct.

They cracked during the World Cup. They cracked when they gave up on Quade Cooper after the Ireland defeat.

They cracked when they stopped playing rugby. They cracked when they thought they could kick the All Blacks off the park in the semifinal.

Since then Australia have tried to win matches off the other team's mistakes. It is a betrayal of their history. This is what Bob Dwyer, the coach of the 1991 World Cup winners, wrote in his book The Winning Way.

"Rugby is a game which deserves to be played positively, by which I mean that every team should be willing to risk defeat in the pursuit of victory. If your primary aim is to avoid defeat by avoiding risks, you would be better off not playing rugby at all. To set out to win by capitalising on the mistakes of your opponents is, in my opinion, a miserable way to play the game."

Dwyer went on to extol the virtue of keeping the winning of a match in your own hands and not booting the ball back to the opposition. He justly then bagged England for their attitude.

But this current Wallabies team is just England in disguise. There is no bigger insult than that. Time and again they kick away possession.

Time and again Beale and Barnes, the killer Bs, tried another silly kick against France. I had a vision of Phil Kearns, the former Wallabies hooker, banging his head against Alan Jones in frustration. Anything but that.

There was nothing good about the performance against France. Nick Phipps may just be the worst No 9 in Australia's rugby history.

The midfield can't play. And as for the fullback, heaven help us. Mike Harris is about the 10th choice New Zealand first-five playing wildly out of position in the 15 jersey.

The whole thing was so sad that I started to believe it was some dastardly New Zealand plot to destroy Australian rugby and that Deans is some sort of double agent.

But the sadder truth is that Deans has probably lost the plot.

It no longer matters what happens at Twickenham this weekend. France was a country from whose bourn no traveller returns. RIP Australia.

- Fairfax NZ News

207 comments so far

  • He's right - sack Deans now!

    Commenter
    Bradg
    Date and time
    November 14, 2012, 10:09AM
    • I agree; something is badly wrong with the leadership.

      I used to get up at any time of the night to watch the Wallabies, but I've reached the point where I'm barely even aware they are playing. Losing I can take, but they don't seem to care, so I've stopped caring about them in return. When the passion comes back so will I.

      Commenter
      JM
      Date and time
      November 14, 2012, 11:26AM
    • Lads,
      Don't be so quick to lock in Link to take over the reigns successfully. The general feel around here seems to be that the rot goes much deeper than just Robbie's coaching ability, sacking Deans would be only part of the solution if that was the ARU's choice.

      Playing stocks are at an ebb, injury seems to have played a big part. All teams have peaks and troughs in their cycle, just Australia's peak seem lower and troughs a little deeper than others (i.e. SA and NZ).

      Just like the cricket, the review needs to be considered and wide. Lets not fall into the same trap that domestic soccer, league and AFL often take and that is to lay the whole blame at the coaches feet

      Thanks for listening
      TD

      Commenter
      TD
      Location
      Syd
      Date and time
      November 14, 2012, 12:21PM
    • The coach, medical and physical conditioning staff all need to go. The occurence of injuries is clustered by teams. The Wallabies are presently a "cluster" and this reflects the poor training and fitness/rehab/medical regimes. Unfortunately this is also related to a wider malaise in rugby. Its not on free to air, and when it is we get to see a national team a shadow of itself with a bunch of highly paid professionals going through the motions between pay days. We have a kiwi coach who feels players outside of their position will do a better job than the best grade players in Australia playing in their specialist positions. Neither of the two major capitals (Syd and Melb) has a team to excite fans and administration seems to be locked into the old GPS, merchant banker, the game they play on heaven code idea. Its good they play it in heaven because its nice to know someone is still playing.

      Commenter
      Tom
      Date and time
      November 14, 2012, 1:00PM
    • TD I couldn't agree more - the rot is much, much deeper than Deans. Only two things Deans has done wrong is shocking selections and bad leadership/strategy, and these two things could be also the fault of others. Booting Deans is a very shallow solution - Link or any other great coach could be installed only to be as meek as Deans, and that comes down to poor ARU Admin and poor leadership right from the top, all putting money before fans and grass roots.

      Commenter
      Yep
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      November 14, 2012, 1:15PM
    • George Smith was the best openside in the last 20 years for any country - yes that includes McCaw and Pocock. The rot started when Richard Harry retired - an enormous human who was picked for his scrummaging ability. Eddie Jones then starting picking mobile players and trying to turn them into good scrummagers he should have got good scrummagers and turned them into mobile players.
      We also need to bring back rucking. It is much faster to get a bloke off the ball with a few good rucks than with the refs whistle

      Commenter
      Franky
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 14, 2012, 1:29PM
    • So right, he should never have been emplyed to caoch an Australian team. He would have success with All Blacks but not Australia. .

      Commenter
      Salt
      Date and time
      November 14, 2012, 1:31PM
    • Look at the tries scored in Union & League.......the more you pass the ball the closer you are to a try......tell that to Deans..........PASS THE BLOODY BALL & KEEP PASSING IT!!!

      Commenter
      Bazza
      Date and time
      November 14, 2012, 1:39PM
    • Oh that's right, it's time to blame the coach.

      Rugby Union has been infested with politics (same with basketball and soccer) and "it's not who you know but what you know" Australia sport has completely degenerated to people with money and all those back slapping buddies that look after each other on the side. Did I mention all of these private schools that use their power to get their own students in and therefore cut out all of the talented sports people out there. It's a limp society disgrace. Didn't we find out at the olympics with no gold medals and they still made rediculous excuses about that. That is what we are left with now, rediculous excuses and poor results across most of the sports we were strong at.

      Commenter
      Andy
      Date and time
      November 14, 2012, 1:50PM
    • No one has mentioned Jake White,.he has done wonders with the Brumbies in his first year,....make it a double,......Yarpies to coach Aussie cricket and rugby,.......could be a winner.

      Commenter
      maximilian
      Location
      Cremorne
      Date and time
      November 14, 2012, 1:59PM

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