Marshall: Wallabies' deficiencies not Deans' fault

JUSTIN MARSHALL
Last updated 05:00 08/07/2013

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Rugby must front up to a refereeing challenge Stags on a winning track after season opener Johnstone: Time for All Blacks to break shackles Reason: All Blacks in need of some new tricks? Johnstone: Rugby replacements revamp needed Mehrtens: Records at risk as Wallabies eye coup Randell: Time to punt value of kicks into touch Burke: Eden Park no garden for Wallabies All Blacks have Bledisloe history on their side Reason: Is All Blacks aura of invincibility gone?

OPINION: Nothing Robbie Deans has done with the Wallabies during his coaching tenure - including the series loss to the British and Irish Lions - should lead to him losing his job.

Chances are it will, of course. But that doesn't mean it is the right decision.

I am trying to work out whether the rampant speculation in Australia over Robbie's immediate future is because they know something we don't - or because they want him gone and are trying to will it into reality.

A less emotional reality check is understanding that, under Deans, Australia has more often than not been the No 2 rugby nation in the world, won the Tri Nations as recently as 2011 and reached the last World Cup semis.

This has been despite encountering a string of serious player injury setbacks in a country with limited depth and also while having to take on several very powerful players who often seemed to be working against him.

He has also had the misfortune to come up against one of the best All Black teams of any era, and featuring several players who will go down in history as among our best ever.

If Robbie Deans is guilty of anything during his time in Australian rugby, it's of being a New Zealander and being prepared to make a stand.

He can't do anything about being a Kiwi, course. But I don't think even he anticipated just how much where he was born would be held against him for no logical reason.

Through no real fault of his own, he then fanned those fires of resentment by consistently taking a stand against any player he perceived would not contribute to the team ethos he wanted.

Nobody who had followed Deans' coaching career in New Zealand would be surprised by that, of course.

Robbie's never been frightened of making a stand. Think about his time with John Mitchell and the All Blacks and the Christian Cullen affair when he discarded the dashing fullback.

I remember the hue and cry when he dropped my old mate Andrew Mehrtens at the Crusaders.

But I also remember that decision was made to open the door for a young bloke named Dan Carter. Last time I looked, that young bloke had turned out alright.

So I was hardly surprised when Robbie made tough calls around blokes like Matt Giteau, Rocky Elsom and Quade Cooper. He's done that his entire career and, more often than not, got it right.

It can't have been easy. And those decisions are now more in the public eye because of the explosion of social media and its heavy users such as Cooper.

But when you make those sorts of calls around players whom many administrators and fans alike adore, you also buy yourself festering resentment which then surfaces when any of those tough calls blow up in your face.

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Like playing James O'Connor at No 10 against the Lions.

I don't think anybody other than Robbie really believed O'Connor was the man for that job. Unfortunately, Deans hasn't been vindicated on that call and a couple of others and it appears he will pay with his job as his critics now rush out of hiding.

Personally, I find that disappointing. Robbie is a friend but I am not being sentimental here.

He has been harshly treated since arriving in Australia and he remains one of the best coaches in the world. I count myself privileged to have come under his tutelage.

Whatever happens in Australia, even if he moves on, Robbie Deans is not finished as a top drawer coach. He's too young, too smart and has too big a rugby brain to be cast aside. He will resurface somewhere and the rugby world will be better for it.

Just as it is better for the Lions having won their first series in 16 years.

That result may have been a terrible one for Robbie Deans but it was gold for New Zealand rugby.

The 2017 Lions tour here will now ascend to a whole new level - and the timing couldn't be better for New Zealand.

I remember that after the disappointment of the 1999 and 2003 World Cups, I was contemplating what to do with the last few years of my pro rugby career. I had good overseas offers but I knew the Lions were coming in 2005 and I desperately wanted to play them.

That carrot kept me going for two years and I feel so privileged now to have played in that great series. Yet after 2003, I saw some of the best guys I've ever played rugby with end their All Black careers without having ever played the Lions.

I am talking about the likes of Jeff Wilson, Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen, Andrew Mehrtens, Carlos Spencer and Taine Randell.

After the next World Cup in 2015, there are sure to be some very good All Blacks around the 28 to 30-year-old age bracket who are going to be tempted like I was to stay on in New Zealand for another two years.

That will be great for our future player retention. And as for the tour itself?

Well, look at the scenes over the past month in Aussie.

When the Lions come, they come with some of the best players and coaches in the world, a huge staff and they are backed by tens of thousands of the most parochial, rugby-loving fans you can find.

It really is an invasion. And in 2017 they invade the toughest rugby country of them all, and probably with Warren Gatland leading them.

I don't know about you but I can't wait.

- Stuff

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