x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

It's a strained partnership between Robbie Deans and Australia

Robbie Deans does not appear to be going anywhere and that upsets a lot of Australians, who would rather the New Zealander were no longer their national team coach.

Australia head coach Robbie Deans
Australia head coach Robbie Deans

Renegotiating contracts before a major tournament is always fraught with danger. Just ask the English Football Association.

They removed a break clause in the contract of Fabio Capello, their expensively-paid manager, before last year's World Cup. England performed wretchedly in South Africa and the FA, you suspect, and would dearly loved to have said arrivederci to the Italian. Instead they have been locked in a loveless marriage for the last 18 months.

Australia may have performed significantly better at the Rugby World Cup, finishing third, but there was still a sense they underperformed, given their attacking riches, and that things are just not clicking under Robbie Deans.

The portents ahead of the World Cup were not promising, with a successful Tri-Nations campaign book ended by two defeats to England and Samoa.

Yet the Australia Rugby Football Union deemed it necessary to lock the New Zealander into a new, two-year contract before the tournament.

"I would rather Australia have an Australian coach than sign Robbie Deans again," David Campese, the former Wallabies winger and now outspoken pundit, said in the summer. "I know they want Robbie Deans signed but we don't need him."

Campese's comments may be laced with patriotism and, being a back of some distinction, he has more reason than most to be frustrated by the some of the unimaginative play which yielded one try in the games against South Africa and New Zealand, but he has a point. The queue of candidates to replace Deans would stretch around the Subaico Oval in Perth and would be headed by Ewan McKenzie.

The former Wallabies prop has served his apprenticeship, working as an assistant under national coaches Rod Macqueen and Eddie Jones. He earned his spurs as the coach of the New South Wales Waratahs and broadened his experience by coaching in Europe with Stade Francais before turning Queensland Reds from whipping boys to Super 15 champions.

"Shows he understands the players and players clearly play for him," tweeted Matt Giteau, the Wallaby back. "Should b oz coach."

Giteau has an agenda, as he was left out of the World Cup squad by Deans, but he knows McKenzie will harness the considerable talents of Quade Cooper and Will Genia at international level as he has done with the Reds.

And a motivated and firing nine-10-12 axis of Genia, Cooper and Giteau would be a daunting prospect for the touring British & Irish Lions in 2013.

 

kaffleck@thenational.ae