Deans eyes long haul as Oz coach

2012-12-06 00:00

LONDON — Robbie Deans says he wants to continue as Australian coach beyond the end of next year and believes the Wallabies are “just getting started’’ as a group.

Deans also said he remained “a believer’’ in Quade Cooper’s talents and the Wallabies had supported the playmaker during his struggles at the last World Cup.

The Australian Rugby Union signed a two-year extension deal with the former Crusaders coach in the lead-up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which would mean Deans will continue as head coach until the end of next season.

Since then, the Wallabies have lost to New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final, lost to Scotland in Newcastle, made a clean sweep of Wales in the June internationals, but endured a difficult Rugby Championship campaign, failing once more to win back the Bledisloe Cup, and losing to France on their spring tour to Europe, before beating England, Italy and Wales.

Against a backdrop of unprecedented injuries, the Wallabies finished the season third behind New Zealand and South Africa on the international rankings, after two seasons at No. 2.

Deans endured particularly intense scrutiny this year, but appears to have achieved enough on tour, finishing the year with nine wins, five losses and one draw, to subdue critics who wanted him replaced before the British and Irish Lions tour in June.

Deans said he “absolutely’’ wanted to coach the Wallabies through the Lions tour and beyond.

“[I will] be continuing, hopefully,’’ Deans said at the announcement of the 2015 Rugby World Cup draw at the Tate Modern gallery in London on Monday.

“This group is just getting started. It doesn’t happen overnight.’’

Deans also weighed in for the first time on the Cooper controversy, saying he hoped the Reds No.10 would return to the Wallabies, that he would be welcome there, but the decision came down to Cooper.

“It’s about what he wants to do, he’s shown previously he’s perfectly capable of playing at that level,’’ he said. “As a coach you don’t allow [Cooper’s criticisms] to come into it, you can’t.’’

Deans defended the Wallabies’ treatment of Cooper at the Rugby World Cup last year. Cooper, then the first-choice five-eighth, was booed continuously on the field in New Zealand and his performance appeared to suffer from the attention. In recent speculation about Cooper’s future, his experience during that tournament and the team’s lack of support was cited as a major reason for the playmaker’s unhappiness.

“To be frank, I don’t want to pore over history, obviously it was a tough time for everybody. We all at the time did everything we could to ensure that it was a good experience. We stood right alongside Quade,’’ Deans said in response to claims Cooper was hung out to dry.

“Let’s not forget I’m the bloke that picked him first and continued to pick him, continued to back him. I’m a believer.

“The critical thing with Quade is that he’s got to decide what he wants to do. Once again it’s got nothing to do with me.’’

Deans also conceded criticism of his coaching, some of which has bordered on xenophobia, had been tough to bear, particularly for his family. “You’ve heard me say before, it’s not about me, it’s about the playing group. Sure I don’t live in a bubble, I’m aware of it, and more importantly my family and friends are, it’s probably hardest on them because they get no ability to influence what happens,’’ he said.

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