OPINION: Robbie Deans must feel as if the walls are closing in on him. Australia lost the first test with a flanker playing centre and a kicker who couldn't stay on his feet.
Deans can't have thought that his luck could get any worse after that, but those walls just keep on edging closer.
First a warrant was issued for Digby Ioane's arrest, then two of the team's ego boys were seen at a fast food joint at 4am, and then the IRB announced a new investigation into Australia's captain. Deans has every right to look like a haunted man. So why then was the Kiwi coach looking so mellow yesterday morning.
Deans might just reckon he is in a win-win situation. If the Wallabies lose the second test, then Deans is probably out of here, no longer public enemy No 1 among former Aussie coaches and current fans. But if Australia win . . .
I am beginning to think they may just be favourites for the second test. Deans' job is on the line. James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale will be desperate to redeem themselves. The forwards are getting tetchy about the Lions talking things up. Will Genia is a freak of nature. And the back three are going to give it a lash.
The main talking point at yesterday's media conference was the IRB's decision to review James Horwill's citing for stamping. This has not gone down well with the Wallabies. The CEO of Australia called the decision unprecedented and said it had "the potential to cause serious disruption to the Wallabies and the positive atmosphere surrounding the tour."
Horwill fronted up, just as he does on the pitch, and launched a serious defence of his actions yesterday morning. Australia's captain said, "I didn't know anything about any incident until after I was cited after the game. Even when I was cited I didn't know what it was for.
"It was a completely accidental act and there was no intent and no malice and I had completely no idea that Alun was by my feet. I feel I got a fair hearing and a good decision and the right decision and that's all I'm focused on. I'm confident of what happened on the field.
"The hearing was four hours and we had nine different camera angles to look at so I think it was very thorough and in that case the hearing went through its due process via an IRB-appointed judicial officer. I've played more than 130 professional rugby games and never been cited once and never been to any judicial hearings.
"It was a complete accident, unfortunately accidents happen in rugby, it's a contact sport (but) there was no intent or malice."
It was an impressive defence, but you just cannot take a player's word for this sort of stuff or everyone would launch the "unintentional" defence. It's like the drugged athlete who has no idea how the stuff got into his system. Horwill trod on the head of an opponent, end of story.
But the Aussies will certainly use the "persecution" of their captain as added motivation. They came back after losing the first test 12 years ago and there is a feeling around the city of Melbourne that they can do so again.
Lions coach Warren Gatland said, "This is a do-or-die match for Australia. It is going to be a real battle out there. Australia are going to be absolutely desperate for this. As it was four years ago in South Africa, this is going to be brutal. It is all or nothing for them."
It's the sort of situation in which you want a man like Paul O'Connell, but the Lions front five is missing two of its best players from the first test. Horwill and Genia will have the Wallabies steaming, but you wonder who has the experience among the Lions' low numbers to lead the charge against the predicted brutality.
Until you get to Brian O'Driscoll in the No 13 shirt, there is only Adam Jones and maybe Jamie Heaslip who have huge experience at this level. Genia will try to drive a wedge between the younger Lions.
The world's best halfback may just prove to be the difference. Fairfax NZ
- Fairfax Media
Where should Super Rugby's 18th franchise be based?Related story: (See story)