Toughest Wallabies selection process - Deans
May 18, 2013
Berrick Barnes had a key influence on the second half © Getty Images
\Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is happy in the knowledge that he has more depth in his squad than at any time since he took the reins in 2008, a fact that offers some comfort after the brutal Super Rugby battle between New South Wales Waratahs and the Brumbies at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
Deans saw the Waratahs overcome 13-6 and 22-16 deficits against the Super Rugby pace-setters, showing they had the ability to "find a way to win ... a good quality", with a number of Wallabies candidates illustrating their credentials in the heat of battle less than 24 hours before Deans names his initial 25-man squad to face the Lions. But he also saw George Smith limp off ANZ Stadium less than 24 hours after the Australian Rugby Union had secured from Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath the flanker's availability to play the Lions.
"It'd be fair to say we came to this game looking for some defining things," Deans said on Fox Sports after the match. "Not necessarily in terms of the squad in the first instance - tomorrow's 25 - but down the track because it's the contest that's not dissimilar to what we're going into. It was a great opportunity for these blokes to press their claims to go beyond the squad and into the front line."
Deans said the remaining six spots in the squad, to be confirmed on June 11, would be reserved for players he wanted to see more of, or players such as Kurtley Beale, and perhaps Smith, who needed as much time as possible to prove their readiness for battle. Deans said the players named on Sunday would form the core of his squad to face the Lions, but "there is going to be a lot of scope from here ... there's ample scope and time between now and then for players to move from without to within; and also starting positions within".
Deans said his squad clearly would be selected with one eye on the opposition.
"You've got to attack to win; you've got to find ways to unlock teams," he said. "You've also got to deal with what's coming the other way. And it's pretty evident what's coming the other way. I don't think Warren [Gatland] will change the way he approaches a game to any great extent; clearly the nucleus of the side is Welsh so they're going to be direct, they're going to be physical; they will play, but they'll play more so after the gain line, after contact, and with their boot. They'll look to squeeze the life out of us, play a territorial game and bring the ref into play. We know what's coming. What we've got to settle on is how we're going to deal with what's coming. Also how we're going to unlock the gate ourselves."
Deans agreed when asked if he had the deepest squad of his Wallabies tenure. "And that's a great problem to have," he said. "Without a doubt this is the toughest process we've ever had in terms of selection, and there's many ways we can piece the combinations together. Clearly there's going to be some further conversations. We thought we were pretty clear but it was always going to be a living document, and I suspect after nominating the squad it'll remain alive until such time as the next three rounds have been concluded. It's exciting times."
New South Wales Waratahs celebrated a hard-fought won over the Brumbies (video available only in Australia)
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
As Ray McLoughlin prepares to celebrate his 75th birthday, Huw Richards pays tribute to the man and the selectors who had the wisdom to bring him into the Ireland fold
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament