Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby World Cup: Deans backs All Blacks

Australian coach Robbie Deans is backing the All Blacks to win the Rugby World Cup. Photo / Greg Bowker
Australian coach Robbie Deans is backing the All Blacks to win the Rugby World Cup. Photo / Greg Bowker

Robbie Deans might have a little green and gold blood coursing through his veins these days but most of it is still black and he will join four million other Kiwis barracking for the All Blacks against France next Sunday.

The Wallabies coach played for the All Blacks and had hoped to be coaching the All Blacks at this World Cup. Instead he was in charge of the opposition but, now his team are out, hopes for a New Zealand victory.

"The All Blacks showed tonight they are more than capable of winning and their intent is there," Deans said. "They are an experienced group and are well versed on what it takes [to win]. They are hungry and have some support around them. They will take some stopping.

"Good luck to New Zealand. They have worked hard for this opportunity. For some it is their third crack at the World Cup and you can see that in the way they play."

It meant Australia had few opportunities to win in last night's semifinal.

They changed their tactics in the second half - the aerial route wasn't working as Israel Dagg and Cory Jane expertly snaffled any high balls kicked their way - and attacked more with ball in hand. While they looked more threatening, they couldn't find a way through a black wall and it was telling Australia couldn't score any points in the second half.

"They defended very well," Deans acknowledged. "Obviously to score was important to us, particularly prior to halftime, and they denied us that. They made it difficult all night really to create any momentum.

"We changed our approach after halftime but weren't able to generate enough momentum and they inhibited our work. Our guys became apprehensive as a result and we lost some fluency."

Skipper James Horwill was more succinct in his summation.

"They outplayed us tonight," he said. "They were very clinical in what they did. Any time they wanted to get down there and get points, they did. We were beaten by a better side, fair and square."

Deans has committed to Australia for another two years, until after the 2013 British & Irish Lions tour. What he does after that is hard to predict because the New Zealand landscape might have changed by then.

Steve Hansen is widely expected to take over the All Blacks next year once Graham Henry steps down for what could be an initial two-year period. Deans still holds ambitions of coaching New Zealand - it's just a matter of timing.

For now, he needs to get his young Wallabies side ready for their third and fourth playoff with Wales.

Deans said he would treat it like any other test match but it's not - especially when you think of the one the All Blacks will play two days later.

- Herald on Sunday

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