Australian rugby
Deans has time to complete Wallabies puzzle
Greg Growden
April 7, 2013
The Reds' Will Genia passes the ball against the Highlanders, Highlanders v Queensland Reds, Super Rugby, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, March 29, 2013
Will Genia is the only name guaranteed to be on Robbie Deans' teamsheet © Getty Images

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has become rugby's version of Woody Allen's Zelig. He's bobbing up everywhere. On Friday night, there he was on our television screens bunkered down at Canberra Stadium.

And less than 24 hours later, the dingo was on the other side of the continent, in Perth, at another football ground, with another coffee cup in his hand, peering away at another Australian local derby.

There is every excuse for him guzzling plenty of caffeine, because as he goes from ground to ground, he would need to be on full alert in the hope of finding some answers to a number of major dilemmas.

The biggest quandary is rounding up enough viable talent to ensure the Wallabies are competitive in two months' time when the British & Irish Lions arrive.

Two months is a long time, and Deans would be grateful it is a long time, because at the moment there is only one Test position that he can confidently fill. The rest are entirely up in the air, with so many candidates off the pace.

If Deans had to pick his team for the First test today, the only name he would write down with any enthusiasm would be Will Genia at scrum-half. And his next assignment would be to keep pestering the Australian Rugby Union hierarchy into making certain that George Smith will be allowed to play in the three-Test series, because he is by far the best openside flanker running around among the Australian provinces.

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When Genia returned from injury a few weeks ago, he was immediately on song, enlivening the Queensland Reds. He quickly reminded all that he is the world's premier No 9. Similarly, Smith has shown all the advantages of so many years at the top level, and his experience and guile will be crucial in June-July.

But elsewhere there remain headaches.

With uncertainty over when the suspended Kurtley Beale will return, James O'Connor stuck at fullback with the Rebels, and doubts remaining over Quade Cooper's defence, the most important position in the Wallabies line-up - the No 10 jersey - remains wide open. Christian Lealiifano remained the big hope, but in front of Deans on Friday night he didn't exactly redeem himself.

Instead Bernard Foley used the moment, with a swashbuckling effort for the Waratahs against the Hurricanes including an exceptional first-half where he did everything bar juggle three footballs at the one time and attempt to walk the high wire. Deans does like Foley, but whether that includes a Test pivotal spot against the Lions remains a bit of a long shot. But in the end, Deans may have no other option.

The Waratahs would be frustrated with their Wellington trip - falling away in the second half - but at least there were some encouraging signs - even for Deans. They did persist with adventurous football, which will enthuse their long suffering supporters who certainly know how to boo their team if they fall off the rails, and at last their fullback Israel Folau showed he may actually be progressing. Folau's effort under the high ball indicated he did learn something during his AFL days, and while his habit of drifting across field in attack is a blight, he has improved his defence and is able to make a break.

A few weeks ago Deans went a bit too early in stating that Folau was on his "radar". At that time, Folau was doing nothing. Now he is doing something, and so Deans will be feeling a little more comfortable in looking at him for at least a Wallabies training berth.

Centres-wise, Adam Ashley-Cooper is starting to get it together, but the wings, as with the forwards, is anyone's guess. As for captain, Genia is the only candidate at the moment, because he is the only player certain to make the cut.

Coaches love using the excuse that time is against them. But at the moment, Deans would be grateful that time is actually on his side.

© ESPN Australia / New Zealand

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