Deans may secure future against Lions - Pulver
May 13, 2013
Robbie Deans' future with the Wallabies may not be black and white © Getty Images
Robbie Deans can go a long way towards securing his future as Australia coach if the Wallabies beat the British & Irish Lions, Australian Rugby Union chief Bill Pulver suggested in an exclusive interview with ESPNscrum.
Deans has drawn strident criticism almost since the moment he was appointed the first non-Australian to coach the Wallabies, in 2008, the critics increasingly outspoken as he has compiled a 42-27-2 win-loss-draw record ahead of the Lions series; his Wallabies won their first five Tests - against Ireland, France (twice), New Zealand and South Africa - but they have subsequently won just two of 17 Tests against the All Blacks, and the Bledisloe Cup now has not been held since 2002. Deans has also drawn criticism for the rigid way in which his team plays, and arch-critic David Campese said recently in an interview with The Telegraph in London that the Kiwi's Wallabies "can't pass, can't catch".
"Unfortunately Robbie Deans has struggled to understand how we play the game in Australia," Campese said in the interview, capturing the emotions of many Wallabies fans. " In the World Cup he picked two centres who couldn't pass a ball. I wish someone could explain to me his tactics. How can you have tactics if you can't pass? Australia's back line used to be the best in the world. Now we can't even catch a pass properly."
Australia lost five of their 15 matches in 2012, averaging just a try a game, and they dropped to third in the International Rugby Board rankings behind New Zealand and South Africa. They finished a largely disappointing and tumultuous season - during which they were thumped 33-6 by France, and Quade Cooper slammed the "toxic" environment in the Wallabies camp - with narrow victories over Italy, England and Wales, and the perception grew that Deans was a "lame duck" coach in the final year of his contract. Jake White and Ewen McKenzie have long been considered to be the Wallabies coach-in-waiting, with McKenzie even announcing that he will stand down from Queensland Reds at the end of the Super Rugby season to pursue his dream of coaching at Test level.
But the conjecture could be moot if Deans' Wallabies beat the Lions, and particularly if they also claim the Bledisloe Cup and the Rugby Championship, as Pulver told ESPNscrum: "I clearly want to hold my coach accountable for the performance of the team". This will be music to the ears of Deans, who recently reaffirmed his desire to coach Australia at Rugby World Cup 2015; equally he knows he will not be allowed to "finish the job, so to soeak" if his Wallabies fail to sparkle in 2013.
Robbie Deans expects a brutally tough series against the British & Irish Lions%]
"I'm personally not a big fan of chopping and changing coaches," Pulver said when asked if Deans were safe in the Wallabies job. "Still I clearly want to hold my coach accountable for the performance of the team. The structural change I have just made means the Australian coach is accountable for appointing all the people who work with the Australian team … so they will be more accountable. But as of today, my sense is that there is some shared accountability between the coach, the players and the administrators. He has a contract, which goes through until the end of 2013. Obviously we have some pretty important milestones coming up this year: Lions tour, Rugby Championship, Bledisloe Cup, Spring Tour. We will be putting in place a process to award the next coaching contract later in the year."
Pulver confirmed that he would initiate a formal review "in a couple of months, as part of the process to identify who is actually going to put their name forward for the position". Deans clearly will be considered strongly if he enjoys a successful winter, but Pulver said "the strategic planning is how are we going to put a program in place to see Australia win [Rugby World Cup 2015 in London]".
And Pulver is convinced that Australia can easily reclaim the world No. 1 ranking: " I just think we have to be balanced in our expectation. New Zealand have in the history of the game been the dominant team. We have beaten them just one in four. But we have had periods of absolute greatness. If we put the right programs in place we can have another period of greatness. I can see a core playing group, which has the capability of winning the World Cup in 2015. If we win the 2015 World Cup, we could lay claim to being the No. 1 team in the world. Is that objective realistic? Yes, I think it is."
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