Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Secret talks to replace Deans

Robbie Deans. Photo / NZPA
Robbie Deans. Photo / NZPA

Coaching change is coming for the Wallabies - maybe even as early as this week - as it's believed the Australian Rugby Union have already interviewed Jake White and Ewen McKenzie about taking over from Robbie Deans.

To act so definitively ahead of the third and deciding test with the Lions suggests that Deans' fate is sealed - that it was never going to matter whether the Wallabies won the series last night or not.

With only six weeks until the Wallabies play the All Blacks in Sydney, the Australian Rugby Union are clearly anxious to install a new coach quickly having seemingly determined they no longer want to support Deans in the role.

Momentum for coaching change has been building in Australia for the better part of the last two years. The agitation hasn't just been about the mediocre results delivered under Deans.

The last 18months in particular have seen player and public disillusionment grow in regard to the Wallabies' conservative game plan.

There has also been widespread frustration at Deans' refusal to make peace with Quade Cooper and welcome him back into the set-up after proving himself the best first-five in Australia during Super Rugby this year.

While Cooper continues to be ignored - largely as punishment for a Twitter outburst last year when he called the Wallaby environment toxic - other recidivist off-field offenders, James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale continue to win favour. The continues lack of discipline of some key players is, according to reports in Australia, understood to have angered some senior Wallabies.

Former Wallaby prop McKenzie has considerable support to take over, having coached the Reds to the title in 2011. His honest and intelligent approach and astute handling of players has convinced many that he is the right man to re-build the Wallabies as a genuine world force.

White coached South Africa to World Cup glory in 2007 and has been instrumental in rejuvenating the Brumbies since he came to Canberra last year. He has the pedigree and is a tough disciplinarian, but there may be some reluctance to appoint another non-Australian coach after six years with a New Zealander at the helm.

While Deans will no doubt be stung should he be removed from office in the wake of the Lions series, there may be a part of him that is relieved by the decision.

Deans has been operating under intolerable pressure for the better part of two years - his future has been a constant source of media speculation since the Wallabies bombed out of the World Cup. They have a 60 per cent win ratio in his six-year tenure and in 18 tests against the All Blacks they have only managed three wins and a draw.

An announcement by newly appointed ARU chief executive Bull Pulver earlier this year stated that Deans would be retained until the end of 2013.

But it would now seem that view has been revised on the basis that it was deemed unlikely that Deans would win his job back in December.

- Herald on Sunday

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