Monday, October 20, 2014

Wallabies can still win World Cup in spite of turmoil

Former Wallabies and Crusaders, and All Blacks assistant coach Robbie Deans believes that despite all the turmoil surrounding his own dismissal last year and the resignation of Ewen McKenzie, Australia still have the ability to win next year's World Cup.

While feeling some enmity with McKenzie, who resigned after Saturday's 28-29 defeat by the All Blacks, Deans said international coaching was 'a tough gig' and what was happening in Australia following the Kurtley Beale textgate controversy was not good for the game.

He believed incoming coach Michael Cheika was good enough to get the best out of the side.

"His flame burns hot and he will get a lift out of them," he said.

"If Australia came through their pool well they are a team still capable of becoming the first side to win the World Cup three times. If they come through their pool all right they are very well positioned to go on and win. Australia have got serious X factor but the key area is up front," he said.

Deans said from a New Zealander's point of view it was vital that Australian rugby was strong.

But the game had to be viable.

"They are competing in the world's toughest tournament, [the Rugby Championship] which was a point of advantage so long as the side remained competitive and the game remained viable domestically and that's their biggest challenge.

"They are competing in the toughest sporting environment in the world in terms of other codes [AFL, NRL and the A-League]. And they're all village games, wherever you go people have an interest down the street and that's rugby's challenge in Australia," he said.

Australian rugby was poles apart from New Zealand, however.

"The distinction between Australia and New Zealand is essentially the background of the players – what they've come out of and what they go back to routinely and from that end they are poles apart."

New Zealand had a much more competitive structure right through the grades. There was a strong schools competition in New Zealand whereas Australia's top schools played about six games a year.

"Players are only as good as the competitions they come out of. It starts from age group because they whole way through there is competition and players become accustomed to competing and accustomed to the fact they need to keep growing and developing because they understand the moment they relent someone will go past them.

There were no guarantees either financially or in playing strength that Australia could remain at the top. Finance was always an issue while there was the prospect of a mass exodus of players after the World Cup.

New Zealand had been through the same situation and it was in 2001 when a high performance meeting was held to set priorities in place. It was something New Zealand had been able to do because the NZR control the revenue streams and control most of the appointments. Through that power they can make decisions in the best interests of the game.

They realised that if the All Blacks jersey suffered they might not have anything to run off.

Deans said he was still enjoying the game and was enjoying the change in Japan with the Panasonic club but he said he didn't know what was around the corner but he was up for whatever was.

"My grandfather stopped me playing basketball once. I suggested I was going to play basketball and he said, 'I don't think so' and closed it down very quickly. Imagine if I told him I was going to coach the Wallabies?"

He said he was much better equipped as a coach now as a result of his experiences for whatever comes.

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