Rugby: Deans eyes new direction for Wallabies

SYDNEY - Some of the biggest names in Australian rugby may be in for a rude shock when Wallabies coach Robbie Deans names his 30-man squad for next month's season-opening tests.

The Wallabies kick off their 2009 campaign with an historic clash with the Barbarians in Sydney on June 6 before playing tests against Italy and France.

Deans says there will be no room for sentiment when it comes to picking a squad ultimately capable of winning back the Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations trophies from New Zealand later this year.

No players - not even incumbent captain Stirling Mortlock - can expect to be automatic inclusions.

"There's going to be some players who have played international rugby recently who won't get that opportunity in the short run," Deans said on Monday.

"But it doesn't mean it's the end. What it means is that we've got a pool of international players that's beyond the immediate group that we'll name, which is good.

"The first squad is for the inbounds (against the Barbarians, Italy and France), so it's never the end until such time as a player deems it to be the end."

Deans will announce his squad once all four Australian teams are eliminated from the Super 14 competition, which enters its final round this weekend.

Only the Brumbies and NSW Waratahs remain a chance of qualifying for the two-week Super playoffs.

"I can tell you this much, it will be a unique (Wallabies) group, a group that has never gathered previously," Deans said.

"It will be a new direction, out of necessity, because if you don't keep going and adding to what you do then you just get further behind.

"We're not in front. We're a chaser. Out of necessity as a result of that, we're going to have to be better and we're going to have to bring something that we didn't have last year.

"That's the plan. We're settling on who those people will be right now and then we'll get on and see if we can turn it into something of substance."

Deans nominated added staying power as one key quality the Wallabies needed after they were left to rue blowing useful second half leads in their last two Bledisloe Cup losses to the All Blacks.

"If you start with last year being the benchmark in terms of where we're at, we're going to have to go the distance," he said.

"We put ourselves in contention, got close to getting some outcomes that we would have enjoyed, but ultimately came up short.

"So whether that be physical or mental doesn't really matter; we're going to have to be deserving for longer than we were last year."

And Deans said while Mortlock may well be deserving of consideration, he placed his skipper alongside every other test hopeful.

"There's no guarantees for any player - and they don't want a guarantee," he said.

The second-year coach stressed Mortlock was still in the mix to retain the national captaincy, but said past honours were just that - in the past.

"The relationship I have with the captain is distinct from the relationship I have with other players obviously in terms of the amount of interaction we have, but it's still a working relationship and it's based on a two-way respect and a two-way accountability," Deans said.

"And obviously you do build bonds and there are sentimental attachments, particularly once you've been through a bit together.

"But that's no different for any player ... it certainly doesn't provide comfort, I guess is what I'm saying."

- AAP

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