Rugby: To Deans, World Cup is everything

Robbie Deans seems more relaxed, back in his hometown of Christchurch. Photo / NZPA
Robbie Deans seems more relaxed, back in his hometown of Christchurch. Photo / NZPA

Robbie Deans says this year is all about steering Australia towards World Cup glory and losses along the way will only strengthen his under-fire side.

The Wallabies coach cut a far more relaxed figure today than at any public stage during the leadup to - and post-test washup - of Saturday's 49-28 loss to the All Blacks in Melbourne.

Perhaps at ease in his home town of Christchurch, the tense Deans of a week ago morphed into a more verbose figure ahead of the second Bledisloe Cup test, opening up about the pressure on his shoulders following eight straight losses to New Zealand counterpart Graham Henry.

The former Canterbury playing and coaching great also let slip for the first time that his four-year brief is to build a team to peak at next year's World Cup in New Zealand.

Even if it meant losing his job through a string of losses, Deans said he was committed to his chief objective.

"Regardless of the outcome at the weekend, there's no doubt that this time will serve this group well," he said.

"I can tell you that in 14 months, they'll be there (peaking).

"Whether I'm there or not is other people's decisions, it doesn't matter. I'm tasked with getting this group into the optimum state at that point."

Asked if his young team would have what it takes to win a World Cup, Deans was more succinct.

"Yes, absolutely."

However, Deans also admitted that breaking their losing streak against New Zealand would be important psychologically.

He and the players felt pressure to do that both for their paymasters and the Australian public but admitted it would be a high mountain to climb.

"Off the back of last week's result, we're a long way away," he said.

"Is there pressure? Yes there is, it's just one of the realities.

"We don't like losing any games. We don't like losing moments in games, let alone whole games... it's never going to be easy against the All Blacks.

"Ultimately, pressure is internal. It's something that the team has to master, in terms of mastering their own emotions."

More than two years of living in Sydney shone through when Deans pointed to where his inspiration came from this week.

The 50-year-old pointed to the achievement of Australian athletics great Cathy Freeman, who was a heavy favourite to win the 400m at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

"The whole nation expected her to get up and... the first questions put to her afterwards was 'how did you deal with it? how did you cope with that pressure?'

"She said 'I simply concentrated on what I had to do'.

"And that's all we can do, in terms of mastering our own destiny."

Deans said he would find time to catch up with family and friends during the week. He and his Crusaders coaching successor Todd Blackadder will be guest speakers at a fundraiser for their old North Canterbury club Glenmark tomorrow.

As usual, Deans and Henry swatted aside questions today about any personal rivalry.

Henry acknowledged there was a core of New Zealand supporters - many of them in Canterbury - who believed Deans should have taken charge of the All Blacks after the 2007 World Cup failure.

"And I understand that, he's done a marvellous job for the Crusaders and Canterbury over the years and was a great player who broke all sorts of records," Henry said.

"I totally understand there will be people who think he should have got the job when I was reappointed."

Henry said he has nevertheless always felt relaxed in his old home town, even when he was regularly booed as coach of Auckland teams against Canterbury in the 1990s.

"I loved it. I used to walk out onto the ground to try to excite them. And I got the response I expected," he smiled.

"We used to have a bit of success, if I remember rightly."

Henry reiterated that he had sympathy for the weight he suspected was building on Deans' shoulders.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw - a long-time disciple of the Deans' red and black rein - sensed interest in the coaching rivalry had waned, particularly over recent weeks as New Zealand's success and expansive playing style have dominated water cooler chats.

"With what the All Blacks have done in the last wee while, people aren't talking about it," he said.

"It's going to be a sellout so people want to come and watch a big test match, I'd say.

"A lot's made of the Robbie thing but from my point of view and the people I talk to, it's a non-event."

- NZPA

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