Players won't save Robbie Deans' Wallaby job

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 11:08 07/07/2013
Robbie Deans and Joe Tomane
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UNLIKELY FUTURE: Under-fire Wallabies coach Robbie Deans talks to Joe Tomane following the 41-16 loss.

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If Robbie Deans was hoping for a potentially career-saving endorsement of his coaching from the players that had produced another low point of his reign with the Wallabies, he would have left ANZ Stadium even more deflated last night.

The consequences of the Wallabies 41-16, series-conceding loss to the British and Irish Lions could be dire for the first foreign coach appointed by the ARU. Before the biggest test staged in Australia since the 2003 World Cup final Jake White and Ewen McKenzie had already been touted as replacements as early as next month's Rugby Championship.

And scrutiny will inevitably intensify after Warren Gatland succeeded where Deans' nemesis Sir Graham Henry failed 12 years ago by masterminding a first successful Lions campaign on Australian soil since 1989.

A typically dead-pan Deans faced the initial inquisition alongside captain James Horwill and was in no mood to speculate on his future nor talk himself up after the Lions powered to a four tries to one victory.

"Those decisions will be made by others .... you don't presume anything in this industry," he said, when asked if he expected to be involved in the rebuilding process associated with a devastating loss.

The Rugby Championship opens with the first of three Bledisloe Cup tests at the scene of last night's despair on August 17, a challenge he described as a "different competition, different circumstance, a different opponent" and requiring "a different method".

Quizzed on whether the Wallabies might also benefit from a different coach, an irritated Horwill treated the inquiry with brevity.

"Yep" said the skipper when asked if he backed Deans. A hundred per cent? "Yep"

Prodded to elaborate, Horwill reluctantly added: "Robbie's the coach, he contracted, he's the coach, you know.

"He's a great coach. Now's not the time to talk about it, we'll review everything after this. Five minutes after I've played a test match is not the time to be talking about coaching positions."

Legendary flanker George Smith, whose recall was proclaimed as a selection masterstroke by Deans, was also reluctant to ponder the Kiwi's future.

"I'm not here to speculate about Robbie's future. The public will always have their opinion on things. It's not my role to do that," he said.

First five-eighth James O'Connor, a polarising selection and personality, was taken aback when asked if he would feel responsible if Deans was axed or did not have his contract extended at the end of the year.

"That's out of my hands. I'm a player I don't make those calls. You're putting a lot on me there," he said.

Deans' 74-test tenure has been pock-marked with infuriating performances and after two closely-fought contests with Gatland, the manner of this defeat will cut deep.

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Will Genia spilling Jonny Sexton's kick-off started one of the most galling 30 minutes Deans would have endured in a coach's box.

Recalled prop Alex Cobisiero capitalised on the gifted field position by powering over in the second minute, the Lions back-peddled the Wallabies scrum at will - condemning Ben Alexander to the sin bin and then permanent exile - and then Israel Folau retreated with a hamstring strain.

The Wallabies regrouped to bridge a considerable gap to 19-16 early in the second half but were overpowered in the final 24 minutes, conceding tries to Sexton, George North and Jamie Roberts.

"They're a better side that what they put in there (last night), that's the disappointing thing on what was a very important occasion," lamented Deans.

"Obviously it was a horrific start and they used their set piece to great advantage. They created a lot of momentum and they going back to set piece to punish us. They kept turning the scoreboard over and you saw the rest."

Gatland obviously had a more contented view point in the stands, especially after he was subjected to widespread condemnation in Ireland for dropping Brian O'Driscoll to accommodate the return of Roberts, one of 10 Welshmen in his starting line-up.

"(I was) absolutely shocked by it, it was vitriolic almost in terms of the criticism," he admitted.

"People are entitled to their own opinions and sometimes you've got to make tough calls.

"We made a tough call and we knew on Tuesday night when we sat down as coaches to name the team that there was going to be some fallout from that.

"I haven't taken a lot of pleasure out of (last night) in terms of feeling vindicated. I haven't enjoyed the last 72 hours, it's been pretty tough personally.

"But that's why you're in the job," he shrugged.

"You've got to make some tough calls and hopefully every now and again one of them comes through and you get it right."

Gatland was criticised for implementing a conservative, power-based strategy enhanced by ace goal kicker, man of the match and man of the series Leigh Halfpenny. So recording four tries after failing to break or cross the line last weekend in Melbourne was satisfying.

"We came out here with the attitude that we wanted to play some rugby and we wanted to move the ball and we scored a lot of points and a lot of tries. Scoring four tries I think was a vindication of how well we've played overall on this tour."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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