Deans finds ally in former skipper Mortlock

Last updated 16:40 14/11/2012
Robbie Deans Stirling Mortlock

Robbie Deans pictured with Stirling Mortlock when the pair were a coach and captain team. Mortlock is now backing the embattled Deans at a time the coach is lacking friends in Australian rugby.

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Former Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock says it's too late to sack embattled coach Robbie Deans with the British and Irish Lions tour looming next year.

The Wallabies were thrashed by France 33-6 in their opening match of a four-test European tour, which Mortlock described as ‘‘tough’’ viewing.

They next face England at their Twickenham fortress in what could be another bloodbath.

The retired Mortlock, who was in Geelong to announce the Melbourne Rebels’ Super Rugby pre-season match there in February against the Hurricanes, said if the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) wanted to replace Deans, they should have already done it.

Deans overtook Bob Dwyer as the most-capped Wallabies coach with the French game (68 tests) and signed a two-year extension before the 2011 World Cup.

But his win-loss record can’t be ignored — he’s only managed to steer the side to 39 wins.

‘‘I think it’s extremely difficult when you take into consideration the Lions — which is the biggest thing for Australian rugby outside of the World Cup — is happening three-quarters of the way through the Super Rugby season next year,’’ Mortlock said of the three-test series in June-July.

‘‘The reality of initiating something like that (sacking him), it would be pretty detrimental to the team and to anything we’re trying to build toward the Lions.

‘‘I really don’t see it happening because it would be really difficult to start from scratch when the next test match they play after this tour will be against the Lions.’’

Mortlock sympathised with the injury crisis this year that hit the Australian side and said their effort couldn’t be questioned.

‘‘When you have that many injuries and you’re constantly having to rotate and turn over your playing group, first and foremost, it’s going to be very difficult to have consistency in your performances.’’

However, he believed there was more to the losses and lack of tries.

With the Wallabies’ failure to score a try in Paris, they become the first Australian side in the professional era to go consecutive games without crossing, and the first of all Aussie sides since 1979.

‘‘We’re trying to gain momentum by winning the game-line battle, but at times, we don’t even get that right so then we don’t get the opportunity to play a bit more expansive rugby.

‘‘And sometimes when you do do that without getting that game-line, then it’s very easy to defend so the balance is out of whack from what I’m seeing.’’

He said the Australians needed to first win the set-piece and the game-line contests.

‘‘If we can do that, I’ve got no doubt the Australian attacking flair can come back straight away.’’

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