The case for and against Robbie Deans as Wallabies Coach

Deans to date: the case for and against

Deans to date: the case for and against
Aussie Bob is under pressure

Aussie Bob is under pressure

No doubt sparked by the deja vu of a splintered scrum and loss to the Poms, questions are starting to be asked about Robbie Deans as coach, probably more than at any other time during his reign.

It’s a complex and emotive issue, so we thought we’d bring a couple of  viewpoints (by no means covering every aspect) to spark off the debate in response to the statement:

“Robbie Deans is doing the best possible job as Coach of the Wallabies

The Case For – by Gagger

Both America and in Britain are in deep economic shit. So deep that it will take years for either to fully recover. While neither countries’ governments were in power when the shit was caused, both already have opponents asking why on earth it isn’t either fixed yet, or getting fixed faster.

So it is with Robbie Deans and the Wallabies. No one can deny that his balance of payments currently suck. For me though, the important question is whether Dingo is doing the best possible job to fix them. I say he is, by the most over-riding of all factors; quality player depth.

Elasto-plast’s 2007 pin-up

For too long Australia has clung by its fingernails to a starting 15 that is one injury or retirement away from oblivion. Unlike his previous two predecessors, Deans has always taken the short term pain for long term gain.  While Connolly limped into a 2007 World Cup clinging onto a half back pairing that MacQueen had discovered in the 90’s, Dingo has fostered a pool of young back-line talent that is making the world sit up and take notice.

These tests against England have been prime examples of this policy in progress for Australia’s troublesome front row stocks. Instead of going back to Baxter or Dunning, AntipoDeans has now blooded three new test players, two of which I suspect will become stars. Some argue it was too soon, but if not now, when?

With around 17 tests a year, opportunities are precious for apprentice Wallabies and cannot be wasted on yesterday’s men. Of the run on XV that won against England two weeks ago, TWELVE players had less than test 20 caps. In the South African team that demolished France that same day, nine had between 20 and 60 caps, and this was a team in rotation. It just takes time to get talented young players into that test cap “kill zone” of experience blended with the dynamism of youth.

The pain we feel and the win/loss numbers capture therefore is the Wallaby player pipeline ‘jumping a generation’ (together with those freakin Springboks coming good). From the Tuqiris, Waughs, Baxters and Mortlocks; to the Coopers, Hornes, Daleys and O’Connors. Each of these decisions is driven by a bigger vision; not to eke out meaningless percentage wins, but to build a dynasty with the depth to win the biggest competitions and continue to do so year on year. Sound like a certain South Island provincial team’s record?

Unsurprisingly such fundamental change does not happen quickly, but it’s a vision I buy into, and pain I’m willing to endure.

The Case Against – by Langthorne

“We got up and that is Test rugby and that is the only thing that matters.” – Robbie Deans, 12 June 2010

The most important measure of a coach’s performance is that of games won. In this measure Deans has a test match win/loss ratio of 54.84% (17 from 31), which is a long way short of the best ever Wallaby coach Rod MacQueen with 79.07% (34 from 43), but also below Alan Jones with 70% (21 from 30), Greg Smith with 63.16% (12 from 19) Bob Dwyer with 63.01% (46 from 73), and even below Eddie Jones with 57.89% (33 from 57) and John Connolly with 64% (16 from 25). Surely someone doing the best possible job would be closer to Rod MacQueen than to Eddie Jones when it comes to the bottom line.

Winners are grinners

[*Just in case it is in any doubt, matches against the Springboks and All Blacks alone are even less flattering: MacQueen 66.67% (10/15), Connolly 40% (4/10), Alan Jones 37.5% (3/8), Dwyer 37.04% (10/27), Eddie Jones 39.13% (9/23), Deans 28.57%  (4/14), Greg Smith 25% (2/8)]

Winning is the object of the game. Winning is a measurable fact. Winning is not subject to opinion, assumption or interpretation. Winning is attractive to supporters (and, by extension, sponsors, advertisers and broadcasters). Winning is good for Australian rugby. Winning is something the Wallabies have been doing less with Robbie Deans than with any other Wallaby coach in the last 30 years.

Under normal circumstances, and for any other coach (in rugby or any other sport), that would be sufficient and conclusive, but for argument’s sake, one final point:

There is no dichotomy between ‘blooding new talent’ (or ‘building depth’) and winning matches.

The coaching records above cover almost 30 years. Each of the coaches mentioned had to manage generational transition. New talent is only a barrier to winning matches if it is introduced prematurely or recklessly.

  • AJK71

    Our Jeckyll & Hyde performances still continuing AND senior players & coach saying it’s down to not being ‘switched on’ when they need to suggests to me all is not well between both parties.

  • bones

    Deans should follow McKenzie’s approach and choose a forward pack that can play directly and run through the opposite pack. The backs can then play from there. Also the forward pack must be one the opponents have some fear of. So no Mumm, no Brown, no Pocock, no Hodgson. Van Humphries (captain) to partner Sharpe, a fit Houston at 8, Elsom 6 and Higgenbotham at 7. McMeniman to return with Vickerman, and Palu, Horwill and McCalman to complete the back 5 x 2.

    • Chris

      Higgers is not a genuine 7 who can play on the ball… a scavenger. Just because someone plays ‘backrow’ doesn’t mean they can play any position in the backrow. Without a George Smith, a Pocock or even a Hodgson…. you are not going to be present at the breakdown, thus unable to secure your own ball or pilfer/slow down there ball. Higgers is just not a 7. Also… Houston is not test standard.

      • JTM

        Just remember that the Bulls were the absolute worst team in the S12 at the beginning of the noughties. That was when young blokes by the name of Bakkies, Matfield, Steenkamp were getting their debuts.

        Look at that team now.

        Don’t hold your breaths, but our day will dawn!!! The gold will fly high

        • Patrick

          Not to mention when the boks were playing insane rotations and putting patently better players on rest … we (certainly I!) were happy to laugh then…

        • JTM


      • Robson

        Agree about Houston.

  • Rocky Elboa

    In spit of the win/loss record I back Robbie and not just because he is rebuilding
    When he came in we were in the SHIT
    Gregan, Larkham, Latham, Vickerman Gone
    Mortlock basically gone
    A forward pack which was only starting to rebuild
    What do we have now
    Genia, Burgess
    Cooper, Barnes, Gits
    Horne, AAC, Ioane
    Hynes, Mitchell, JOC, KB
    Up Front
    Ben, Ben, Kepu + now Daley, Slipper
    TPN, Moore + now Fingers
    Sharp, Horwill, Mumm (no one new)

    • Rocky Elboa

      Hogdson, ROCKY, Palu
      And there will be more

      OK so we are good one game shit the next but this is something specific to the Deans Era, hopefully backing youth will change that
      Macqueen is a god and Fast Eddy and Connally lived of what he produced for years, now that carcass has been stripped and in 2008 we were left with nothing
      Deans might not have the win/loss record of Macqueen but what he creates today we will be able to live of for years to come

      Why is it not just about rebuilding?

      Because what I saw in the first match against England made me believe in a new era, are we there… sadly no
      But its come I will rid this bandwagon all the way to the RWC

      • RugbyReg

        would those players not have come through regardless of the coach?

        The coach’s job is to get his team ready to play on the weekend and last week was not the first time in recent years the Wallabies have not looked ready to play the game.

      • ozrugbynut

        Don’t know if the stats support this, but it seems VERY rare under Deans that we field a fully fit, first string side. It seems that we always have key players injured.

        How rarely are Thorne, nonu (notwithstanding current injury), matfield, burger, the 7 from NZ who shall not be named, injured and out of the side.

        Very frustrating. Does it say anything about Deans conditioning programme? Perhaps not, but it does seem to be something which has impacted on results in the Deans era.

  • tippo deans

    Deans is not simply the best option we have, he is the best coach in international rugby. He has built depth, skill, promoted free play, got players enjoying the game again, and has commentators around the world marvelling at Wallabies style – if not their win loss record just yet. The last hurdle is the wallaby pysche which is so susceptible to the hot and cold syndrome – however he is at least got a plan, by building depth and competition for places, and replacing the old with new he is replacing the former culture and keeping current guys on their toes. Tough to judge a coach negatively on a performance by a team with so many injured, rather i think the recent performances were, if anything, an endorsement. Tippo is our best option, daylight second. Surely there is a more interesting bandwagon going around…

    • sorry, how is he even close to the best coach in international rugby?

      so if any coach came in and picked 300 players they would be great?

      there is no marvelling at the wallaby style, we havnt achieved anything close to a consistant style since well before deans took over and he has yet to find one.

  • Joe Blow

    I understand and agree with the youth policy and building depth for the future.
    It is an admirable trait to look beyond your own tenure and build a legacy that will only truly be recognised after you are long gone.
    But why apply it only to certain positions?
    What happened to the second row? What happened to THP?
    We are now building excellent depth in the backs, good depth in the back row but we have no depth in the tight five?
    If Ma’afu gets injured in the first 3Ns test, or completely dicked which is more likely, Deans will be compelled to throw a rookie into the fray against one of the worlds best.
    I have always been pro-Deans but my confidence is starting to waiver.

  • The Rant

    Here’s where Deans will be defeated in his quest: This wallaby teams inability to master and control their mindset/mental toughness/ and have an ability to be always switched on and turn up.

    Deans is a kiwi – and coached kiwi teams – you don’t need to coach a kiwi to switch on, you don’t need to coach a kiwi to pay to their best on the day (t like the maroons).

    The point is I think Deans is brilliant… but he is USELESS at delivering 15 hungry fighters to the stadium for kick-off (probably doesn’t help that he always seems to be on valium). The current bunch we have seem prone to ego and lazyness (of course not all, but you can’t carry even a few at this level) and he doesn’t seem capable to fix that

    I don’t believe in blooding for the future at the expense of winning – i didn’t put a yellow shirt and a green and gold sweater on and sit in a pub in copenhagen last saturday to watch rebuilding.

    Still – i’ll be there next saturday on the off chance our blokes turn up.

    • MattyP

      Fair point about the psychology. But I actually think Dingo has the answer to that – depth in the squad = competition for places = switched on, motivated players. If (and a big if) he really can develop real competition in each place in the squad, motivation should take care of itself. I hope I’m right!

      • The Rant

        I agree depth and competition helps – but I don’t want to have players who a trying to hold their spot – I want blokes who are playing with enough confidence in themselves and the team to win every bloody trophy under sun. Just don’t think Deans can coach that.

      • Patrick


        • zeedok

          I agree about attitude — remember the swagger of Gregan (let alone Campese).

          Those guys expected to win (as did we) and had the skill and ticker to back it up.

          I’m not sure how you coach that though . . .

    • Dogman

      I know the comparisons between S14 and tests are limited, but how did Link manage to flick the switch at the Reds? There was bugger all depth there, and they still turned up and played for… something. They said all season they were playing for each other, for pride. Is that what is missing at our test level? Probably. But with a good showing of Reds in the team they should be able to apply the same belief to the higher level. Maybe they’re just still a bit too young. Or maybe they just miss their leaders like Van and Braid, or maybe it is Ewan’s “one-of-the-boys” style. But the example is there for all to follow.

      • Garry

        That’s a good point. We give Dingo credit for building depth in the squad. But really, when was the last S14 season that our provincial teams performed so well. I think that credit has mainly to go to the S14 franchises coaches and player management for providing quality players from which Dingo can choose from. Yes, there must be some communication between ARU and the franchises about WB objectives? But still…

        And whilst we’re on this subject. Does anyone else feel a knot in there stomach when I read that the Melbourne Rebels have signed another international (ex-kiwi, ex- euro star). I realise that they are buying skill (as opposed to taking the time to grow it), and the danger is of the Rebels becoming the whipping boys in their first season, but it is one less position to choose a WB possibility from come selection time. What about local talent?

        I try to console myself in the knowledge that McQueen is at the helm, and maybe he can create another Brumbies.

    • Andrew

      How do you prepare a player mentally?! Screaming and ranting at a player like Dean Mumm isn’t going to turn him into Sam Scott Young or keep him charging through the opposition like Toutai Kefu for eighty mins. The simple reality is they’re either built that way or not. I remember Toutai saying once that all the pre-match talk and psychology was bullshit – you switch on at that first hit and that’s all that matters.

      What’s the point in blaming Deans – we don’t have the talent in the forwards, whether its the size, mindset and aggression or just basic skills.

      I’m all for blooding the young guys because we will eventually find a diamond amongst the rough. Credit to him

  • DPK

    You can’t really vote “Yes” or “No”; in some aspects, Deans has excelled,while he has failed in others.

  • Happy Hooker

    Definate rebuilding phase. I think the selection of Slipper (Aus U21s player of the year last year) typifies his selection policy. If he doesn’t reap the benefit of these selections, then the next coach definately will.

    In all of this, if the senior players like Giteau, Elsom, Sharpe get hungry and stand up to be counted up to and during the next world cup, there is enough talent to do something.

    This bunch definately have something not quite right up top though – very hot and cold…but getting more caps is exactly the key. Thanks to Deans, guys like Pocock/Genia/QC will have 20-30 caps instead of 10 or so going into the WC.

    Hopefully they can get it right b/c NZ will be hard to beat at home!! Remember we still have the following to come back: Robinson, Moore, TPN, Alexander, Horwill, Palu, (Ioane and Genia) and there will be a few bolters yet (Douglas) that will rise before next year, when we also benefit from having the Rebels join.

    Bob Dwyer’s saying that to win a WC, you need 3-4 World XV players rings true with me. I reckon you have them (just):
    Elsom, Robinson, TPN, QC?, Genia?,

    • The Homas

      I think your response resonates most for me. A fully fit Wallabies team is a very impressive side on paper indeed. With Robinson, Moore, TPN, Alexander, Horwill, and Palu to come, it brings back that absent firepower we’re lacking up front right now. Deans knows these guys will be back, I reckon he sees this time as an opportunity to blood the new guys, promote competition for spots, build that depth and play towards the world cup. I still think there needs to be a place for Higginbotham and Humphries in the squad as soon as they’re fit. They had absolutely outstanding seasons.

      • zeedok

        Second the call for Higginbotham.

        The back row seems to be missing some bulk/power/penetration with Cliffy out.

        Just picture if you will:

        Schalk Burger
        Pierre Spies

        Now picture:

        Dick Brown
        Stephen Hoiles

        Who would you rather meet in a dark alley?

        • Patrick

          Stupid and stupider, personally

    • JR

      I just don’t buy Elsom as a World XV player. He’s certainly not a leader, rumblings out of Brumby HQ suggest he hates training and would only show up when the spirit moved him. That he was their best player this season speaks more of how disappointing they were then how good he was.

      Robinson, TPN and in time, QC and Genia certainly, but not the Rock. I reckon AAC would have to get a spot on the bench, though. If only cause of his versatility.

      • zeedok

        Disagree about Rocky.

        I think I am right (correct me if I am not) that he won the MOM in 11/13 matches he played in the Heinekin Cup. I heard that Leinster’s attacking strategy was basically — “Get it to Rocky”.

        If that’s not “World XV” class, I don’t know what is.

        I reckon his S14 was fairly subdued — eventually I worked out that it was because the rest of the Brumbies pack was absolutely useless.

        • realist

          Rocky spends too much time trying to run over the little blokes in the backs rather than doing the hard stuff in the forwards. I have never seen Rocky ever do a dominant tackle.

        • Spot on JR

          Zeedok his form was world beating for Leinster – deserved every one of those 11 MOM’s (and probably the 12th and 13th too). Problem is he has never played that well for the wallabies.

        • andy golds

          hienikien cup lacks the intensity of southern hempisphere rugby. that is probably why leister gave so much ball tio Rocky……..

      • Spot on JR

        Totally agree JR. Elsom without doubt a good player. But massively over rated. At his best would have him in 6 jersey but his best has not been seen in wallaby colours. His attitude and ego could be a victim of the press he gets and unfortunately not supported by form. Higginbotham was far more aggressive at 6 this year.

  • Robson

    I couldn’t vote, because up until yesterday I would have voted “YES”.

    Now I’m really and truly unsure.

    The part that makes me waver is this. Deans may be building depth and yes it IS something which has to be done. But he also on record as saying that curret form is the decider on who gets selected and who doesn’t.

    The last two matches have clearly spelt it out for three Wallaby forwards. Chiz, Mumm and Ma’afu. Neither of these three have the credentials to continually man the reserves bench let alone the run on 15. But look who is in the team for Saturday.

    If we are in development mode why are these three being persisted with? It makes no sense to me at all.

    If we are in development mode, well let’s do some development with players who look like they have the potential for development. Simmons, Weeks, Douglas.

    Deans is a clinical thinker about rugby, but he can’t find the pot of acid to throw at his team at halftime to get the glaze out of their gaze.

    Last year the ABs whacked us in the TN 4 zip. If this is the team that is going to compete for the TN in 2010 we are looking forward to another memorable TN tournament – memorable for all the wrong reasons.

  • Robson

    Where selections are concerned I basically think that Robbie Deans has got to start thinking outside of the square. The square of his own mind.

    • Andrew

      Start by not selecting Drew Mitchell and other backs with utterly woeful defence. Time to nail the basics

      • zeedok

        The backline is not the problem.

        At present we have depth, pace, skill etc in the backline — sure drop Schmoo if he has a bad game, you’ve got the likes of Turner, Beale, Hynes, Davies, ?Morahan (not to mention Shepherd) to call on if needed.

        But the forward pack . . . that’s where the problem is. One week it’s a weak and embarassing scrum, the next they get blasted out of the breakdown and are unable to deliver ball to the backs.

      • Sam

        I agree with you Andrew, the basics are the key to winning hard matches. Yes, we have some flashy backs but when you play another good team the basics are what will get you through 90% of the game. As we all know there are two major parts to a game, attack and defence. If we are the best attackers in the world that won’t count for shite if we can’t stop the other team from crossing the try line. I beleive that Deans is a very good coach and the team looks like it has been taught a lot, but the players have no heart when it gets tough. Rocky is not a captain, let him be the mongrel he used to be and let genia take on the role (when he is fit that is). If this team shows some heart they will comfortably beat Ireland, if they don’t it will be the same as last week. Either way i’ll be on the sidelines cheering them on.

  • Joe Mac

    He has no choice. There are so many injuries it is beyond a joke.

    Real team # Current team due to injuries
    1 B1 1 1 Baby
    2 TPN 2 2 Baby
    3 B2 3 3 Baby
    4 Sharpe 4 4 Sharpe
    5 Horwill 5 5 Mummy’s boy
    6 Elsom 6 6 Elsom
    7 Pocock 7 7 Pocock
    8 Palu 8 8 Brown turd
    9 Genia 9 9 Cant Pass
    10 Cooper 10 10 Cooper
    11 AAC 11 11 Cant Tackle
    12 Giteau 12 12 Cant Kick
    13 Horne 13 13 Horne
    14 Ioane 14 14 AAC
    15 JOC 15 15 JOC

    It looks more like a nursery than a national XV side… Not only that, there are so many injuries to our reserves bench!

    Poor dingo deans

    • Tod the Ranter

      Agreed, Deans is in a tough spot.

      What I cannot understand is how the team can be 100% switched on, massive enthusiasm one game and then totally flat the next. Year after year. Deans does not seem to inspire them – but then maybe they should be inspired anyway? Playing NZ or England – isn’t that inspiration enough?

      • Ruggers

        The coach is the brains but I feel that the captain should be the one to fire up the team and inspire. Rocky isn’t the man. He doesn’t train hard (S14 or Wallabies) and his attitude on the field stinks of comfort. If you aren’t eloquent (and Rocky obviously isn’t) then you must inspire by your fire on the field. He’s a candle not a bush fire out there at the moment. Deans can’t be out there with them. That’s the captains job. Rocky’s just not our guy. Give it to Sharpe. The man is inspirational (verbally), is respected and is the man mountain that teams can build on. Sharpe trains hard, works hard and is a born leader. He’s the first with a rev up chat during the game and loves a chat to the ref. The experiment with Rocky isn’t working. Let him focus on playing but let’s not ask the guy to talk. To the media or the boys.

  • chief

    The non selection of Hynes and the continued selection of Mitchell shows that he isn’t doing it.

    His sort of coaching style of not using bench players really doesn’t work for me, and I don’t think it works for his “youth policy.” I don’t hold it against him, its simply his style of coaching. Its obviously not working as we are going to go through this years Tri-Nations series being the laughing stock. Hell under Deans we’ve now been ranked 4th in the world rather than 3rd or 2nd.

    • Patrick

      He has one difference of opinion with me and thus he is not doing it.

      are you for real?

      I agree that I would rather see more use of the bench though.

      • The Rant

        Not sure if was last year or the one before – but twice we let the all blacks back into the game in the last quarter where they flooded the game with fresh legs and deans sent noone on until the 76th minute when we’d already given up the lead.

  • Who Needs Melon

    I voted ‘Yes’ but…

    I think Deans is building depth which is something the Wallabies really needed but his success in changing the mindset / attitude of the team is what is REALLY needed and what I think he is having much less success with. In his defense it’s a VERY hard job to change the culture of a company, team or whatever. I think he needs some champions within the player group to help him and I don’t think he’s getting that.

  • sidbarret

    Gagger, in his argument in support of Deans focusses on his selections, especially his preference for youth and building depth. I don’t think that his selections have been that much of a success though.

    Firstly, I don’t think depth should be a major consideration when you are in rebuilding phase – get the first choice team settled and natural attrition will ensure that new guys are blooded into a settled side. I don’t agree with the argument that having ‘competition’ for places will motivate the players, it seems to much like trying to rule through fear. Sharpe should be worrying about being better than Matfield or Ali Williams rather than Kane Douglas or whoever the next possible Wallaby is.

    Secondly, if you are going to take punt on a player, make sure it is the right player. For example in 2008 the starting back three was Tiquiri, Hynes and Ashley-Cooper, two years later only Ashley-Cooper is still in the reckoning and he is arguably second or third in line. Same thing in the centres with Barnes and Mortlock being replaced by Giteau and Horne. Now it is also silly to say that there won’t be changes over two and bit years, but there isn’t a single combination that has survived from the 2008 side. Players don’t automatically get better by being selected to play international rugby, they need to learn from doing, that means getting a prolonged run in the team, and be by being coached by the best. That brings me to my final point.

    In 2008 Barrick Barnes was the shining light of the young brigade coming through. He wasn’t perfect, he kicked away too much possession, but with experience and the right guidance he would be a very good international player. Fast forward two years and what do you have? Barnes is good international 12, but he still has the same weaknesses as two years before. What is the point of selecting players for the future if the players don’t benefit from the experience. Barnes isn’t the only player who has stagnated, the same point can be made about Brown, Burgess, Hynes.

    • Conor

      i dont reckon hynes has stagnatred a bit but a good post.

    • Brown and particularly Hynes haven’t stagnated, just look at his form during the S14.

  • Building depth? By losing to England? No thanks guys. The very notion of building depth implies the supra-importance of the RWC, which I disagree with.

    • Patrick

      not necessarily. It might also imply a squad which can dominate all competitions over a sustained period of time.

    • Garry

      Is Deans building depth out of choice, or because he is forced introduce new players due to by injuries to first choice selections?

      I ask you, does the refusal to bring on the bench during games, and continuing to have faith in badly performing players sound like a coach whose interested in building depth?

      Perhaps kudos must go to the S14 franchises for providing the quality players for the new found depth.

      • realist

        The simple truth is that the Wallabies are less of a force now than they were 2 years ago. Forget about injuries – that comes with the territory. To build a successful team you need a blend of experience and youth and you need players who have a variety of skills and attributes. Players seem to be introduced and as soon as they gain a measure of experience they are discarded in favour of a younger player with less experience. There seems to be an over emphasis on try tallies and little regards for players with strong defence, guts and those other qualities that go to make a top international. The current team will struggle to win a single Tri-Nations match in 2010.

        • gary owen

          I do not agree. When you have brilliant attacking players like Rocky, Munn, Cooper, Mitchell, Beale and O’Connor you you cannot expect to get good defence as well. You just have to score more tries that your opponent.

  • RedsHappy

    ‘Never let the facts get in the way of a good story’

    The idea (pro Deans) that all a top intn coach has to do is to promote talented young players and manage ‘generational change’ is both superficial and naive. Far more than that baseline requirement is needed: excellence in individual game strategies, team psychology and inner confidence building, deep skill development and consistency, physical conditioning, to name but a few. In fact, these latter attributes are where the real questions re Deans need to be directed, as his performance in all is questionable to highly questionable.

    Next, if in fact ‘generational change’ was the appropriately dominant attribute for which praise was deserved and endless patience required we would by now have the following scenario: team psychology and intensity would be consistently excellent, game-to-game consistency would be good, game strategies would be good, and we’d be principally let down by the errors of inexperience and pressure _coming from younger, newer players_ as these players matured. Yet none of this is what is happening, eg: Murrayfield and Sydney lost (in score terms) by bad Giteau errors, Elsom manifestly lacklustre all this year, first try to England in Sydney from schoolboy lineout set-up errors by the seasoned players, and poor Mitchell concentration in defence…the list of such could fill 10 more lines.

    Finally, anyone who is so untutored in the economics of our game to think that, as a major sport with v high national overheads, we can afford years and years of mediocre Wallabies performance, disillusioned fans, and a poor to worsening w-l ratio, need to immediately turn their gaze to recent history of the QRU: 5+ years of utter mediocrity and declining w-l: virtually bankrupt by end 2009, and requiring an expensive, last-ditch rescue by the ARU.

    I rest Langthorne’s case with this provocative question: if the Wallabies need (as is argued) 3 plus years of sensitive patience and delicate understanding before coming right in, will it be?, 2011, why was it it possible with major coaching and business changes to completely transform and rebuild the Reds (a team with lesser resources by far than the Wallabies) in 6-9 months? That is worth pondering.

    • Brax

      I’d say that the Reds have been rebuilding for years. It finally came to fruition this year.
      Having suffered through that pain & seeing the rewards this year I think Deans is on track & I know how to support my team through thick & thin so refrain from complaining ad nauseam about selections & who should be coach or not.
      Go Wallabies!!!!!!

      • Who?

        The Reds have been rebuilding for years, but they’ve been rebuilding the other teams. Didn’t they say there were only 3 survivors from the 92-3 drubbing by the Bulls in the team that beat them 19-12 this year..?

      • RedsHappy

        So Brax, you don’t think the total change of management of QRU and coach of Reds in late 2009 had anything to do with 2010’s break-out of successes?

        • Brax

          Of course it did,but the signs were there under Mooney, in fact they were a bit like the Wallabies of late, no consistency.This year they had consistency when they had a stable team, it all went a bit pear shaped when injuries hit later in the year.
          Robbie hasn’t had the luxury of having the top team on the park or stability in the team.

  • ash

    I tend to think that we, as Wallaby supporters, tend to believe they (the Wallabies) are better than they are in several ways. In the recent case, depth is where we are deluding ourselves a bit.

    We have five key forwards out (Alexander, Robinson, TPN, Moore, Horwill, Palu). We simply do not have enough depth in the forward pack to compete against teams with good packs with 4 – 5 of our best forwards missing. We did very well in the first English test, considering this.

    So, to me it’s no surprise we lost a test against even an understrength England due to our lack of depth and host of injuries.

    Regarding Deans, I agree with Gagger here. Deans is building depth – and you can see how he is going by the improvement in those young players. We need this depth to cover those key players should they go down in the World Cup.

    In terms of getting key wins, with the current injury and poor depth in Australia Deans is really up against it this year. I think that many will have knee jerk reactions against Deans for each loss, which in the circumstances, may not be fair if the injury situation does not improve.

    • Mate, if my knee jerked every time we lost I’d have no cartilege left. This is a long-term disappointment I have with Deans. Even if the Wallabies win RWC11 I would want him to go.

    • Robson

      I see your point ash, but can you tell me why at least three forwards and one back will get on to the park on Saturday when we aready know all there is to know about them. And what we know about them is that they don’t have much to know about.

      Why doesn’t Slipper get a full game now, or at least a start? Why aren’t Simmons and Weeks on the bench. Why is Mitchell still there, when Hynes has had a great S14 season.

      Development is good. We need to make sure that what we are doing is development though.

      The players I’ve mentioned are no longer developable. All this talk about development makes my brain go numb. It’s not happening, the team is in a state of selection seizure and needs a defribulator applied to it.

      • reds fan

        and Robson why is development confined to under 25 year old’s. Hynes is 27, hardly an old man. I some countries he’d be considered in his prime!!

        • ash

          I’m a Reds supporter, but Hynes is not in good form at all right now, and did not look fit at Gosford. As I mentioned below, it looked like he was struggling to run freely.

          Anyway, bringing in an apparently struggling Hynes does not solve the problem of where England beat us.

        • reds fan

          Ash, i was making a comment on Deans’ philosophy of what constitutes team development rather than suggesting Hynes be selected for this game.

      • ash

        The team Deans is fielding currently is surely what he is thinking will be thereabout come Tri-Nations time, minus people returning from injury.

        I actually think Baxter should be recalled as Ma’afu has failed. Too much test time for the 20 year old Slipper may not be the best thing for his career now, so I am fine with him on the bench. Weeks was pretty damn poor in both the “Aus A” games. Would love to see Ma’afu droped though.

        Simmons and Douglas are too green and while both played well this year, I don’t think either have warranted selection yet (unless we get another injury to the incumbents). But Mumm and Chisholm are out of form. Deans is on a hiding to nothing whatever he does in my book. Humphries had a better season than both in my book, but loses out due to age.

        Mitchell had a better S14 season than Hynes (although Hynes did have a good S14 season). Hynes was solid at best and mainly just average or worse in the “Aus A” games. In the game at Gosford, up close he looked like he was struggling to run freely.

        Both Mitchell and J’OC have been found out defensively, and I think one would have been dropped had Ioane not been injured. Problem is, no-one in the “Aus A” games put up their hands to replace them, but either way I think both will be on last chance saloon with Deans without improvement in their defence.

        • Robson

          I wasn’t aware that Hynes played poorly at Gosford and may be under an injury cloud. Thanks for that clarity.

          But neither Simmons or Douglas are being blooded at a time of the season where they need to be. How would you like to bring them on against South Africa without a run if Chiz and Mumm are unhealthy? Slipper has performed well when he has come on. Ma’afu hasn’t. Logic says that Slipper should start and Weeks should come on to the bench. Throughout the S14 Weeks’s performance was way above Ma’afu’s in every aspect of the game. I know he’s been injured, but what is the state of that injury now?

          But that’s just the forwards. The backline needs a close look too. JO’C over played his hand in the last test. He also found himself ahead of the support play a couple of times too, so that says something else about the team. Where were they. I still think he needed a bit of time to think about things this weekend.

          Van should get a run despite his age, because (a) he earned it in the S14 and (b) he sets the bar for everyone else in the pack to aspire to.

        • gary owen

          Gosford was a very poor game from a team which could only have been selected to fail. Hynes was playing at 15 in attack and wing in defence which prevented him from counter-attacking which he does so well.

  • Joe

    I want the coach of the wallabies to be someone who loves the wallabies and australia as much as i do. Not someone who is looking at the job as a stepping stone to leading the all blacks.

    • Garry

      Possible scenario…

      At RWC11

      AB’s choke, NZ nation goes into mourning and depression. GHenry is sacked.

      WB’s fall at the last hurdle. Dingo’s contract is not renewed.

      AB’s sign Dingo, not only because he almost had the position before, but because he know all the WB’s strengths and weaknesses intimately.

      Now I know what overseas (non-OZ) cricket supporters feel when they have an Australian cricket coach. Something just don’t feel right in the pit.

    • Robson

      I’m not an Australian, but that is very fair comment.

    • Sadly this is part and parcel of the professional era.

      At the time Deans was signed he was the best option.

      Hopefully Link keeps his form as coach of the Reds and takes over at the end of Deans’ contract.

  • Reddy!

    Jesus Gagger, how many excuses do you want to make.

    “For too long Australia has clung by its fingernails to a starting 15 that is one injury or retirement away from oblivion.”

    Is that not still the case? How has things changed at all? Stop looking for the gold lining under the silver lining.

    • RedsHappy

      Reddy, yes.

      One other serious fact-based flaw in the opening chapter of the Deans-hugging handbook is this: if, as some have argued, the whole Wallabies set up was extremely poor/near-certain-disaster and oblivion in late 2007/early 2008, how was it possible that (as I recall) in Deans’ first 8 weeks in charge we beat two Euro nations and won Tests against the ABs and Boks?

      I kind of sympathise with the ‘I so much want to believe in Deans’ movement, but its cause would be much enhanced with more attention to hard facts, from 2010, and prior.

    • RedsHappy

      Reddy, one other point worth debating here re the ‘one injury from oblivion that Deans is saving us from’ thesis:

      I would contend that if Cooper was injured and out for a period, our try score rates could fall off alarmingly. I think we could lose big games – or even middle games – without him. Partly I say this as Giteau is performing so inconsistently, and Barnes is low on self-confidence and back to his anxious kick-away flaws under pressure, etc.

  • Bones

    Deans also talks in circles which is worrisome. How can any of his players understand what he wants when he mixes all his metaphors like that – “Matt looks comfortable in his own skin”. What direction is Matt supposed to take from that? For the TN and WC2011 the Wallabies must get back to the “Prayers work best when the players are bigger” doctrine and stop picking these midgets.

    After 3 bad losses in the TN this year, with our midgets getting smashed, and with the trip to SA next up, I think you will see Deans stood down together with Williams (a huge disappointment) and McKenzie brought in through to the WC.

  • RedsNut

    Given the number of injured forwards, what is the poor bloke supposed to do?
    Alexander and Dunning weren’t that good when they first started internationally.

    The team hasn’t been the same since Eales and co retired, and now it’s starting to come together. Sure there are some selections that I would like to see differently, as would others, but then we don’t know what is going on in the backroom.

    Imo, Deans is doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.
    And I want Link to stay at Qld for ever if we keep on like last season.

  • zeedok

    I don’t know who can do it or how, but we need consistency from the WBs.

    This team has had some really dominant performances against quality opposition — they have the wherewithall to dominate world rugby (despite their failings) but they alternate a great performance with outright shit far too regularly.

    What can you do??

  • Joe_Mac

    How long until the 3N’s and how much of our full team do we have back from injury for the first game?

    • gary owen

      The current team seems to be our full team. Players coming back from injury have to prove themselves at club level before they are considered for selection. Having been out for some time with injury they have to re-acquire their previous form before they are considered. In the meantime the selectors have discovered a younger, smaller player with great attack, no defence and no baggage to occupy the position previously held by the injured player.

  • Watson

    Robbie Deans is a terrific coach, and proved it by getting the very best out of several different Crusaders squads over 8 or 9 seasons.

    He doesn’t have the cattle. The players know they’re not good enough, which explains the loss of heart in certain games. Gregan had swagger because he was the best and knew it. These players aren’t the best, except maybe Quade and Genia.

    Not even Ewen McKenzie could get his team up to play 100% in every game. In at least half their games against top sides the Reds flopped.

    • Red Rooster

      The Reds beat the top sides – Bulls, Stormers and Crusaders and had the Tahs measure. This was done with a group of players that finished 13th the year before and had lost Barnes and Horwill to boot. No one wins 100% but if you can pick from anywhere in Australia you would think that a 52% win rate is a little low

  • Forceful

    I was hoping that they would bring fairbrother in after the injury to BennyA, he’s been around for awhile and scrummed well for the force and canes so has experience.
    I rate him above Maafu and based on the Babas games ahead of weeks, the should have used him in the 2nd babas game.

    Havent seen Slipper play a full game at tighthead ,so cant really comment.

    But I believe that you have to mix experience with youth.

    Even fuse would have had something to offer as experience goes.

    At the end of the day the I thought that the 2nd test was lost because too much focus went into the scrum and our looses suffered because that had to put so much extra in at scrum time and 2 scrum penalties cost us the game.

    On the positive side, Deans has created a good environment within the wallaby set up, the players are happy with his performance and seem to back him.

    He stands by his players and is eager to reward good performances and is willing to give everyone a chance.

    He’s done wonders with the backs, but I think his forwards coaches have come up short with some selections and preparation. Especially with the scrum.

    • Joe Blow

      The problem is that the players now know there is little or no consequence for a bad performance.

      Deans could have:

      Started Chisholm or Simmons with the other on the bench.
      Started Weeks at TH and given Ma’afu a rest/time to think.

      These two changes would have sent a message that was loud and clear. It also was his last chance to see these two (Weeks and Simmons) at the highest level prior to the 3Ns.
      We do not have a second rower or TH prop returning from injury anytime soon and Ma’afu and Mumm are not test standard.
      Maybe Weeks and Simmons aren’t either, but better to find out now instead of in a must win 3Ns test.

      I think Mitchell and Giteau do deserve another chance and Deans knows very well what the alternative players offer. There is no drama starting Hynes or Sookface in a 3Ns test.

      I really hope that we see a decidedly different squad picked for the 3Ns. Unfortunately I can’t see it happening.

      • AJK71

        Spot on re no consequence for bad performances. All Tests forwards have been inconsistent but only unforced change so far – Slipper on bench for Cowan. Don’t want wholesale changes to allow combinations to form but for Ireland Test Weeks for Ma’afu, &/or Simmons/Douglas for injured Sharpe, &/or Hodgson for Brown were options. This would blood them & see how they go before TriNations squad picked.

      • Garry

        it doesn’t sound like a coach that’s interested in building depth in the squad does it?

        Perhaps “going through a rebuilding process” is the modern day euphemism for this squad is not emulating the results of previous squads!

        Does it gets bandied around too easily?

  • Garry

    What must be interesting would be to know Dingo’s relationship as a coach with individual senior players, particularly Sharpe, Sook face, and Elsom. With the problems that confident, domineering personalities like Gregan (et al)created for the previous coaching regimes,I wonder how much success Dingo has in shaping a team with these players in it.

    For instance, what would happen if Deans dropped Gits to the bench for a more junior player that fitted a certain strategy he had in mind against a a particular team? How would Gits react then, and next time he ran onto the pitch?

    Generational change must be a difficult proposition for all concerned, not least we supporters.

  • Robbie can’t play the game for them. Most of your front row forwards wouldn’t make a NZ provincial side – they are that bad. Get some more Kiwi immigrants into Australia and breed some forwards like you have with the backs.

    • Timmy Horan

      NZ Maori scrum was truelly awful.

      They got destroyed by the Poms just as badly as the Aussies.

      The NSW scrum was superior to all the provincal NZ scrums

      • Robson

        Aweful or not, they made up for it in the ferocity of their attack on the breakdown, their relentless regrouping to repel the maul and hard direct running; as well as frantic, scrambling defence.

        Might be a lesson or two in here for the WBs.

    • Alan B’Stard M P

      We don’t need Kiwi immigrants

      We need to look at all talent available, not just the tarts from the private schools, but the general rugby population. Find some hard nuts

  • George

    I dont understand how age can play against you if on form you are the player needed. Van Humphries would not only bring experience but mongrel, something sadly lacking form the Wallabies this season so far. He was a big part of the Reds revival, and surely could provide something to the Wallaby pack. If the NZRU can sign SBW to a one year contract (correct me if am wrong) why cant we select players with the right attitude and skills? And by skills I also include ability to sledge and niggle!!!!

    • Robson

      There is a case for that which you promote re Van Humbpries. In 1956 the ABs brought Kevin Skinner out of retirement to stiffen up an AB scrum that was getting well and truly done over by a massive Bokke front row. The ABs also included a powerful No. 8 in the form of the legendary Peter Jones.

      It was a dual move that fixed a lot of things and the ABs went on to win both the third and fourth tests.

      There is a time and a place for evrerything – even in bringing old warriors back. This is definitely the time and the place for Van the Man. Trouble is it’s too late and he wouldn’t have been match fit even if he had been brought back for this game or the last one, but he should have been given the opportunity to put his hand up at Gosford.

      Buildig depth via a youth policy is one thing. Having one way tunnel vision may not support that.

      • sidbarret

        The fact that Skinner was (professional level?) boxer had nothing to do with it? Doc Craven never forgave the ABs for pulling that stunt.

    • Alan B’Stard M P

      “mongrel” is something the Wallabies traditionally lack. No trouble there with the Kangroos

  • Timmy Horan


    Diggers back in time for game 2 of the Tri-Nations.

    We also get back Moore and Robbo.

    The tide is turning.

    • Robson

      How about another lock or two of international calibre to say nothing of a No. 8 who is up to the job?

  • Westo

    A strong Queensland is a strong Australia, and that is finally starting to happen.

    • Robson

      Well a strong Queesnland is starting to happen. Not sure whether it’s translated to a strong Australia yet. But who knows, it might just be around the corner.

  • Gnostic

    How do people still think Deans is either following a youth policy or building depth?
    1. Ma’afu is 27. He is a poor scrummager and always has been. The option not even in the squad is Palmer (21Yrs Old). He offers little around the field but is excellent at the set piece. With effective coaching he could improve his work rate. SO no Youth Policy here and I would argue that Ma’afu will not be seen in the squad again so no depth either.
    2. Second row. Horwill is out as is Kimlin. Sharpe was the form 2nd row of the Oz team followed by Humphries and Douglas. Sharpe gets injured and who takes his place. Chisholm. A player tried and discarded before. We could have had Simmons, Wykes, Hand, Douglas blooded if we had a youth policy or a depth policy.
    3. Half back – Burgess has played very well on one occassion for the Wallabies and he promptly gets benched for Genia who was not fully fit and then plays more than half the game with another injury. What new prospects have been unearthed or developed at half back? Zero – so no depth or youth argument here.

    Deans has done well coming off a very poor position to start with. But his selection policies and use of the bench is nothing short of abysmal. He is safe until the RWC is finished but as things stand I won’t be unhappy to see him go.

  • Langthorne

    So far almost 75% of respondents have voted that Robbie Deans is doing the best possible job as Wallaby coach.
    The best. No one could have done better a better job and there is nothing he could have done better. That is what best means. No room for improvement at all in anything he is doing.

    I am not saying he is the worst (except in terms of the trifling matter of games won, but that has nothing to do with my opinion – it is just a fact), but I’m certainly not saying he is the best. Like almost everyone who has posted, I can see things he could have done better ie not the best possible job.

    • Garry

      I remember being angry at the time of his appointment because there was no better options available in our coaching ranks. We put a lot of focus on the importance of fostering playing talent, but who’s cultivating our coaching stocks.

      ARU, your performance has been appraised, your contract terminated, please clean out your locker.

    • RedsHappy

      Don’t forget LT that there has been a very clever, very assertive ARU PR push to paper over all the cracks with the “building new talent for the future’, ‘developing depth’ etc storyline in the mainline media and virtually all rugby mainline journos have, until very recently, bought into and purveyed this hook, line, and sinker (partly because they all effusively ‘voted’ for Deans in early 08).

      That will surely impact perceptions until the hard facts become too hard to ignore and a ‘tipping point’ starts to reverse the PR and PR simply works no longer.

      There are real analogies with one Kevin07.

  • Robson

    Someone here said last year that Deans can not relate to the Aussie rugby culture. At the time I said emphatically that this could not be the cae.

    Now I’m beginning to wonder.

    We’ve played and lost games we should hasve won or done a lot better in. That is cause for real concern. The Reds played and won games they had no right to win; until they were so decimated by injury that they couldn’t keep up the momentum. In this context the difference between the Reds and the Wallabies does point to something a bit sinister about Dean’s suitability for the job. I won’t come right out and say that he’s not up to it just yet, but there is a scary little thought like this lurking not too far back in my mind.

  • Who?

    Ok. We’ve finished the June Tests. I know we’ve had a lot of injuries to key players – the front row, Sharpe and Horwill, Genia, Digby. But, even knowing some of them will be back for the 3Ns, I’m the least confident I’ve been at this stage of the year for 3 years. We’re gonna get pasted. As I see it, the only part of our game that has improved over the June window is our scrummaging. The Ireland game distorts things a bit, because they’re nothing on the English at scrum time, but we have definitely seen improvement in the scrum. That said, throw in some experience – which is returning from injury – and that’s completely solved. Our bigger issues aren’t going to be solved by returning players. Our defense has gotten worse through the month. Our attack less sharp (now blunt). We were excellent at the breakdown in Perth, terrible in Sydney, poor tonight.

    My question is this – why, after a month together, is the team arguably playing worse than their first week? Why don’t we use Hodgson when Brown’s having little impact? Chapman when the locks are quiet? Why, after 3 years in charge, am I less confident about our position than ever..?

    If Robbie’s doing the best job possible, why did we lose a Test in June? When was the last time that happened? I honestly can’t remember – was it 2003..? Can’t blame the inexperienced front row for it!

    • Joe Mac

      Hmmmm, I don’t think you can blame Robbie Deans for Giteau missing four penalties in a row against England. England are a good team who played their best game since the 07 world cup. Even with their performance it wouldn’t have even been close if Giteau wasn’t such a spaz.

      Totally agree, I have never seen us perform so shit in the June tests however, I cant remember us ever having 8 injuries to our starting XV, injuries to almost all of our first choice subs and so many youngsters on the park to build some depth before the world cup.

      Dump Giteau, give Sharpie the captaincy and come next year, we will be the only nation with 3 WC’s

  • sidbarret

    Many posters are refering to the Reds as a Australian success story, and yes they improved, but.

    They beat the Bulls, Stormer, Crusaders and nearly the Waratahs. They also lost against the Sharks and the Highlanders. It is thus fair to say that they were inconsistent, pretty much the same thing people are complaining about with the Wallabies.

    Not arguing anything, just saying.

  • Alan B’Stard M P

    best way to fix Oz rugby is get rid of O’Neill and the board


Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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