Saturday 25 November 2017

Deans looks doomed as Aussies run out of ideas


Peter Bills

IRELAND’S interest in the continuing failings of Robbie Deans’ Australia will be considerable.

With just 13 months left before Ireland and Australia line up in the same World Cup group, Declan Kidney and his coaching staff will have watched this latest Wallabies setback with a critical eye.

Another Tri Nations defeat, albeit this time by only two tries to one after the seven-tries-to-three mauling they had suffered in Melbourne the previous week, represented a ninth straight loss to the All Blacks for Deans. But such a statistic will have done a lot more than just dent the Kiwi’s pride.

The forces are mounting against Deans and this Wallaby era. Former Australian World Cup-winning coach Bob Dwyer led the charge after Saturday’s setback in Christchurch.

“For me, the score flattered Australia,” he said. “We were poor. I said before the game, I couldn’t understand the selections at Nos 2, 3, 4, 8 and 12. By the end, I felt as many as seven of the side hardly deserved to be there.

“What has happened to Will Genia? He has gone from being a genius to hopeless. He was dreadful in this game.

“A third of the time, he wasn’t even behind the forward pack. Anthony Faingaa looked out of his depth, especially in the first half. James O’Connor certainly isn’t a Test class wing and I can’t believe there isn’t a better No 8 available than Richard Brown.

“As for the backs, they look as though they get no coaching whatsoever. Most of the time, they don’t even know how to realign.”

This is dangerous talk as far as Deans is concerned, and Dwyer is far from alone in being critical. Former New Zealand captain Sean Fitzpatrick added fuel to the fire after Saturday’s defeat, saying: “Robbie has been in charge of Australia for three years now, this is his team.

“But in three years they haven’t delivered. There has been bad discipline and bad choices made. They look like they are running out of ideas.”

To which Dwyer retorted: “I disagree with Sean – I think they ran out of ideas some time ago.”


Kidney is too wise a bird to believe very much in Australian in-fighting. Besides, he would point out with some justification that the World Cup is a separate entity, a one-off tournament. Strange things can happen – like England reaching the final in 2007 after losing a pool match 36-0 to South Africa.

All the same, Australia’s next two Tri Nations games appear critical. Both are in South Africa and both at altitude, so neither will be easy.

But if Australia lose them both, and then go down to New Zealand in Sydney, they will have lost five of their six Tri Nations matches for a second season in succession.

It might well be that even Deans could not withstand that record and a change might be made. But with barely a year left to the World Cup, that could plunge Australian rugby into turmoil.

Australia had enough ball to win two games in Christchurch, but they did precious little with it. They had no idea how to break down a wellmarshalled All Blacks defence and continued to bash into opponents.

On one occasion, it took the Wallabies 10 phases of recycling to make 20 metres and the move then ended when wing Drew Mitchell hurled a wayward pass straight into touch. Knowledgeable critics such as Dwyer shook their heads in despair.

Three tries in the opening 14 minutes – two for the All Blacks by Mils Muliaina and Conrad Smith against a breakaway score by Kurtley Beale for Australia – suggested another try feast was imminent. But New Zealand couldn’t get enough ball to launch many attacks and Australia, dominating possession, could do little with it.

Thus, a stalemate ensued after New Zealand had led 17-10 at half-time. Dan Carter’s penalty goal 10 minutes from the end was the only score of the second half, but it was enough to confirm another All Blacks win and ensure they retained the Bledisloe Cup. Australia haven’t had their hands on that since 2003, another fact to pile more pressure onto Deans’ shoulders.

NEW ZEALAND – M Muliaina; C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, J Rokocoko; D Carter, P Weepu (A Matthewson 76 ); A Woodcock, K Mealamu (C Flynn 76 ), O Franks (B Franks 42), B Thorn, T Donnelly (S Whitelock 50), J Kaino (V Vito 68), R McCaw (capt), K Read.

AUSTRALIA– K Beale; J O’Connor, A Ashley-Cooper, A Faingaa, D Mitchell; M Giteau, W Genia; B Robinson, S Faingaa, S Ma afu (J Slipper 64), D Mumm, N Sharpe (R Simmons 64), R Elsom (capt), D Pocock, R Brown (M Hodgson 55).

REF – J Kaplan (South Africa).

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