Wallabies coach Robbie Deans basks in big hometown welcome

By Jarrod Booker

Robbie Deans (centre), coach of the Wallabies Rugby World Cup team, talks to the media at Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch yesterday. Photo / Martin Hunter
Robbie Deans (centre), coach of the Wallabies Rugby World Cup team, talks to the media at Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch yesterday. Photo / Martin Hunter

If there is open hostility towards Australians at the Rugby World Cup, Robbie Deans has not experienced it.

The adopted Aussie coach has found the opposite - he's been welcomed like a long-lost son. Of course it helps that he's a born and bred New Zealander with a stellar record coaching the Crusaders.

While some visiting Australian supporters have complained of abuse from Kiwis, Deans said: "The demeanour of the public, on the whole, has been fantastic.

"I don't think it does the tournament justice to suggest there is an underlying nasty element," he told the business audience at a fundraising lunch in Christchurch yesterday.

The audience just wanted to know when he would be moving back home to Canterbury.

"In this industry, you don't know what you're doing tomorrow. Obviously right now I'm trying to defer that [homecoming], because we want to go as far as we can in the tournament.

"What's going to happen further down the path? Who knows."

He says he's been too busy to be homesick. "This place will always be close to [my family's] hearts. We never lose some of the strong connections we have in the community. It comes with you."

Watching from afar as Cantabrians suffered in the recent earthquakes had been tough. But Deans had high praise for how the people had coped, predicting that Christchurch would rebuild and become a "benchmark city in the world".

Asked about his worries in the World Cup, he said: "Being from a rural background, I learnt early on only dogs worry. And they get put down."

He doesn't think about who might win matches Australia are not involved in.

"History shows that World Cups just never unfold the way you anticipate. Hence New Zealand has only won one," he said to some light-hearted booing from the audience.

Quade Cooper is supposed to be the Australian player Kiwis love to hate because of his on-field run-ins with All Black captain Richie McCaw. But fans flocked to Cooper in Christchurch yesterday.

He told the Herald: "I think everyone is trying to paint a certain picture and I think it's all due to building hype around the World Cup. The reception from all the Kiwi fans in general has been great."

The Australian team have also tweeted about how much they have been enjoying New Zealand.

Cooper wrote: "Goodbye Hanmer Springs thanks for the few days of relaxation & for the awesome crowd."

- NZ Herald

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