Rugby: Deans shows a ton of class

By David Leggat

You've got to hand it to Robbie Deans.

He showed the touch of a master politician at his unveiling at the Australian Rugby Union offices in North Sydney. All the right buttons were pushed.

ARU deputy chief executive Matt Carroll gave Deans the royal welcome - "the Australian Rugby Union introduces to you all, and to Australia, Robbie Deans. Welcome Robbie".

The moment only lacked a drum roll, dancing girls and a standing ovation.

But those wondering how Deans would fare in foreign territory, in front of a large gathering of primarily Australian journalists, some unquestionably carrying deep suspicions about a bloke from across the Ditch getting the best gig in their town, could only have been impressed.

Peter FitzSimons was there. The former Wallaby lock, author and raconteur has been the most vocal critic of Deans' appointment. He looked grumpy.

A few hours earlier his weekly column in the Sydney Morning Herald described the ARU decision as "nothing less than a humiliating day for Australian rugby".

He had a quick word with Deans afterwards. Possibly a "nothing personal pal"; maybe "I don't agree, but good luck mate".

Deans displayed a clever grasp of how to impress his audience. He saw potholes coming and stepped around them, ie, whether John Mitchell, his old All Black running mate and now Force coach, might figure in his coaching staff.

Too early to talk names he said, quipping that Australians might accept one Kiwi, but two might be pushing it.

He avoided the odd bit of baiting, such as how he felt about being called a traitor in New Zealand.

"I've been called many things over time," he said, "and I'll be called many things in the future."

He slipped in a bit of coach-speak - "my approach will simply be to help people in the game get to a better place".

There was a deft jab at Graham Henry and the curly issue of the All Black panel seeking certain assistance in Crusader players being jiggled about for All Black planning purposes.

The potential had always been there, he said, "but I suspect after the recent experience they're less likely to be interventionary this year. If they have a request I'll listen to it, we'll discuss it and resolve a course of action." So there. And "New Zealand has a huge pool of talent, but I think the key is what you do with the talent". Think Cardiff. Ouch.

He gave both sides of the Tasman a tasty human interest tidbit too.

Bob Templeton, former Queensland and Australian coach and one of his country's finest rugby men, first turned Deans on to the possibilities of coaching when he visited him in an Australian hospital.

And John Wright, one of New Zealand cricket's top men - in both respects - was sounded out on what it was like to coach against your homeland. Wright did it for India during his highly successful stint a few years ago.

Far from saying he got twisted emotions, Wright told Deans it was "fantastic, like competing against your brother in the backyard".

Australia's rugby future is bright, there is ample talent and he's relishing the challenge ahead. Can Australia win the next World Cup? "No doubt".

Told of a theory that Australian players were "smarter" than All Blacks - that is, they'd have taken a certain dropped goal in a blink in Cardiff in October - Deans grinned: "I hope you're right". Nicely neutral, no offence could be taken by the blinkered brigade back home.

Every wave of an arm to emphasise a point drew a rapid "click-click-click-click" from the cameras.

It would be pushing it to say Deans had his audience lying on their backs getting their tummies tickled, but it was a performance of polish and style.

Did he know the words to Advance Australia Fair? He does, "but you can rest assured - I haven't been appointed for my singing".

First impressions? The Wallabies are in good hands, if not necessarily good voice.

Your views

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 20 Sep 2014 20:13:53 Processing Time: 843ms