The Australia coach Robbie Deans is confident his side remain on track to make an impact at the 2011 World Cup despite mixed fortunes on their recent European tour. Impressive wins over England and Wales were sandwiched by a creditable draw with Ireland and a bewildering 9-8 defeat to Scotland, which came despite the touring side dominating possession for large parts of that game.
But Deans said the most important thing was the emergence of young players such as Quade Coo-per, Benn Robinson, Ben Alexander, Will Genia and Digby Ioane. "I think we will look back in time and recognise the value we got out of it," Deans said yesterday. "We didn't get everything we were seeking from an outcome perspective, but there were a lot of pluses in terms of players who have emerged from very little background.
"We're obviously not where we'd like to be yet, but we'll be better for this experience, without a doubt. It's a remarkably young group and they're learning in the toughest arena, but they're learning. We've just got to add that consistency which comes with experience." Australia were also unbeaten in their midweek matches during the tour, triumphing against British club sides Gloucester and Cardiff, and Deans was full of praise for second-row forward Dean Mumm, who captained the team to victory in both games. "We found another leader there in Dean Mumm, who did a great job with the midweek side," he said.
The success of the tour is encouraging for Deans after his side had rather laboured in the summer's Tri Nations series, winning just one of their six games. Pressed on how he thought Australia were placed if the World Cup in New Zealand was to, hypothetically, start tomorrow, Deans said: "We'd be a shot, I think we've shown that through this year. "We have a sense internally of making headway and I think we got an indicator of that on the weekend [in the 33-12 win over Wales].
"It is evident that this group has a really exciting future. It would be great to be part of that because I think it is a very exciting group. "They are great to work with. They have been fantastic on and off the field. They have laid down a great foundation stone for the future." Full-back Adam Ashley-Cooper, who was one of the stars of the tour, added: "We were only three points away from a successful tour.
"That [Wales] game, personally and from a team perspective, was a turning point leading into next year." In Super 14 news, next season will be Colin Cooper's last as coach of the Wellington Hurricanes. Cooper will leave the team at the end of May to take up the vacant coaching position at provincial side Taranaki after signing a two-year deal to replace Adrian Kennedy, who resigned last month. Cooper said he had turned down job offers from clubs in Britain to return to the province he played for and then coached between 1999 and 2001.
"Taranaki has always been home to me and I have been away from my family for the last nine years, which has been hard on them and on me," he said. "By taking up this position, I am able to remain in the region and continue to help develop players for the franchise. It is an exciting challenge and one I am very much looking forward to." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org