Australia 23-32 Samoa, Sydney, July 17
Deans defends selection policy
July 18, 2011
Deans saw his under-strength side suffer an embarrassing defeat to Samoa © Getty Images
Australia coach Robbie Deans has defended his decision to rest a host of his first-choice players in the wake of their embarrassing 32-23 defeat to Samoa.
Deans opted to give big names such as fly-half Quade Cooper and flanker David Pocock a rest while others stars like fullback Kurtley Beale and scrum-half Will Genia started the game on the bench. But the decision backfired as his side were outplayed and out-muscled by the tiny pacific nation at ANZ Stadium yesterday.
It was a dismal start to the Wallabies' season, which continues with a Tri-Nations opener against South Africa this weekend and one eye on the World Cup starting in New Zealand in just two months. But Deans stood by his team selection today, insisting it was simply performance and not personnel that led to the defeat.
When asked if he should have picked his best available side with the World Cup so close, Deans said: "We're damned if we did and damned if we didn't. We've got a whole campaign to run and a six day turnaround before playing South Africa in our first Tri-Nations outing this weekend.
"The Reds players didn't join us until late Monday and clearly needed a break. They'd come off a huge Super Rugby campaign and hadn't trained with us. Sure we could have thrown them out there but the outcome may not have been much different and we would have been doubly worse off. We've been able to give some of those blokes time to recover, recuperate and to look forward."
Deans admitted the loss to Samoa was a timely wake-up call for his squad ahead of the World Cup, but scoffed at suggestions his players were arrogant and failed to show their opponents enough respect. "It's an easy suggestion to make under the circumstances but we just didn't play well," he said.
"None of us are comfortable with that, but a suggestion [our performance was] based on a lack of respect is nonsense. We talked not only internally but externally pre-game about the capabilities of the Samoan side.
"This was their World Cup combination chosen from their best players across the globe. As we saw they are a good side...they've got some proud history behind them and we didn't underestimate them."
Deans added on Monday that he was not surprised by the media's assumption that his side had been complacent. "We expect it. That's been our reaction," Deans said. 'It wasn't a great experience. I don't know what other people were thinking, but we certainly weren't [complacent]...and we talked about that - internally and externally. We've obviously reviewed the game - now we're looking ahead."
Reds winger Rod Davies was one of four players to endure a horror Test debut - thanks largely to the intimidating presence of giant Samoa wing Alesana Tuilagi. "He's pretty big, he's pretty agile as well. Credit to him, he played a great game and got the points today," Davies told AAP. "Obviously, that's not the way I pictured my debut Test. I guess the only way is up from here. Back to the drawing board and look for the positives in the game and obviously the negatives we'll work on, which is plenty for me."
Fellow debutant Nick Phipps was equally shell-shocked. "Their willingness around the ruck was something that we didn't see coming first up," said the scrum-half. "They did really well, getting over there disrupting our ball, pinching a lot of it ... the physicality around the ruck and the willingness of the players was definitely something that was a step up from Super Rugby."
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