Australia coach Deans fearful of well drilled Lions ahead of summer showdown
Australia coach Robbie Deans expects the British and Irish Lions to have a "huge advantage" heading into the first Test in Brisbane on June 22 because the Wallabies will not have adequate time to prepare.
The tourists will play five matches Down Under - against the Western Force, Queensland Reds, a combined New South Wales/Queensland XV, NSW Waratahs and ACT Brumbies - before the series opener.
Deans has at least been granted three weeks to prepare a squad of 25 players, who will be quarantined from Super Rugby from June 2 under an Australian Rugby Union (ARU) directive.
But while the Wallabies will be able to get reacquainted on the training field, the Suncorp Stadium opener will be their first Test match in 202 days.
"There's no doubt that the Lions will have a huge advantage in terms of entering the series," Deans said at ARU headquarters today.
"You go back to 2001 and the Wallabies had similar time (to prepare) but with a (warm-up) game, so it was obviously a more complete prep and they got spanked in the first Test.
"And (former Wallabies coach) Rod Macqueen, who spoke with us recently, quite openly conceded that (the 2001 team's) preparation wasn't adequate, and he's genuinely concerned by what we're confronted with."
The Australian provinces are furious over the decision to quarantine Test players from Round 17 of Super Rugby but an unapologetic Deans says preparation for the Lions series must take priority.
The Brumbies host the Force on June 7 while the Waratahs travel to Perth to face the Force on Sunday, June 9.
It is conceivable either clash could decide the finals fate of at least one Australian club and ARU chief executive Bill Pulver has left the door ajar for some players to be released back to their teams on a 'case-by-case basis'.
But Deans made it clear he wants his best Wallabies available to train for the entire three-week window.
"A call has been made, there'll be a preparation and if I was a franchise coach I'd be looking to control the controllables," Deans said.
"It will still be the shortest preparation in the history of the game for a Lions series so we will want the group with us to prepare solely.
"Obviously the door's been left open to some extent around circumstance at the time, but if I was a franchise, and I've been in that context myself and we understand they've got campaigns of their own that they want to do well in, but I guess the key is the 15 rounds leading up to that not the one round at that time."
Meanwhile, Deans said this year's RBS 6 Nations tournament is further evidence of the depth of talent Lions selectors have at their disposal.
"Similar to Super Rugby you're seeing a capacity to play the game from all nations, it (the competition) is equalising which is inevitable I guess with professionalism," he said.
"You look at the performance of Scotland for example.
"They've got a tough job selecting their group ... a year ago the Welsh were the Grand Slam champions, it looks like the English will be the Grand Slam champions this time around.
"You saw the form of England at the end of last year. We knew having played them what a good side they were and then the whole world knew a week later when they tipped over the All Blacks.
"And then you get to pick the best out of the other combinations to add to that, and you end up with a pretty capable group."