Richard Loe 's Opinion

Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe: Ditching Deans not smart

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Robbie Deans has had countless issues inherent in Australian rugby to try and overcome. Photo / Getty Images
Robbie Deans has had countless issues inherent in Australian rugby to try and overcome. Photo / Getty Images

If the Aussies are smart, they will leave Robbie Deans in place as Wallabies coach, at least until after the end of year tour to Europe.

By the end of this morning, we may well know his fate, as there is so much pressure on Robbie that most are picking a loss to the Pumas today will see him either sacked or resigning. I'm saying that would be foolish.

If they sack Deans, the new Wallabies coach would have a terrible prospect in front of him. In the short term, they have to play the All Blacks again and then go on a tough tour of Europe with many players injured and/or out of form.

In the long term, the new coach would have to deal with some of the problems that have confronted Deans.

Let's see - lack of depth, a lack of a national rugby competition like the ITM Cup, a spreading too thin of Australian rugby resources across five (yes, five) Super Rugby franchises, coaches who are failing to provide the national coaches with players in peak condition and who have turned up few answers to the problems, a player base short on confidence, and a highly political rugby administration still struggling to make headway against the NRL and AFL.

See what I mean? Even if the chalice isn't poisoned, it will be at some near stage for the new coach; there's nothing surer. Australian rugby is in disarray and you don't sort out problems like those overnight.

I understand that something may have to give and, in sport, that something often tends to be the coach. But their problems won't be fixed by changing the driver if the car's a bit sick.

Look at the facts. Robbie has had to field a side with, at last count, up to 27 Wallabies unavailable. He's also never been able to set his own management team in place, with at least some of the shots being called there by the ARU.

He's also had to deal with some tough off-field problems. Like Quade Cooper. Australian rugby has such depth problems that they can't do to Cooper what the NZRU would have done - ripped up his contract and got rid of him some time after that burglary business, even though the charges were dropped after a mediation agreement. Since then, he's been in trouble on and off the field and is now making life difficult for everyone by talking about the supposedly "toxic environment" in the Wallabies. Seems to me there is only one thing that's toxic and it isn't the Wallabies - and I'd bet that if Cooper was a player on this side of the Tasman, he would have been let go a long time ago.

I have said it before and say it again - none of the Australian Super Rugby coaches really provided Robbie with peak-condition, in-form players. Prop Benn Robinson was a prime example - he was overweight and unfit and someone joked this week that the old Wallaby prop Chris "Buddha" Handy could have taken his place. Buddha wasn't called Buddha for his peaceful beliefs, incidentally.

Some say that Robbie has never fixed problems like the Wallabies scrum but Australia just does not seem able to produce good props. Of the 28 starting props in our ITM Cup, I'd say 10, maybe even 15, would fly into the Australian team.

It doesn't matter whether Robbie Deans is the coach, or Ewen McKenzie, or Judge Dredd. The problems remain.

Some will say I'm just making excuses for an old mate.

To them, I can report a chat with a friend who asked if I'd be taking over a tour group to watch the Aussies - many are expecting them to be with a new coach - against the All Blacks in Brisbane on October 20.

Why would I do that, I asked?

"Because it'd be really great to go over there and see them get really thrashed," he said.

That's all I am saying. Robbie Deans has not had an easy walk in the park. Neither will the next guy, whoever he is - because Australian rugby has problems that are bigger than one man. There's no point changing the outboard motor if the boat's got a leak.

- Herald on Sunday

Richard Loe

Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Wyllie Loe was a renowned All Black forward prop who plied his trade for the New Zealand national team between 1987 and 1995. Loe was well known by fans and team mates alike as an ‘enforcer’ on the pitch, a player who balanced his abilities with the ball with a tough-tackling prowess and a penchant for physicality. During an outstanding career Richard Loe represented his country of birth in no less than three World Cups, assisting the All Blacks to a famous victory in 1987. Along with fellow team mate and captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Loe formed one of the most formidable forward lines ever to lead the All Blacks. Despite his sometimes overly physical dominance on the pitch, Loe is regarded by former team mates as being an exceptional character and professional. Following retirement from rugby Loe became a sport columnist for the New Zealand Herald, a position he still holds today.

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