Robbie Deans ready for last stand
July 6, 2013
Robbie Deans' future is not yet black and white © Getty Images
Jake White is favourite to be Australia's next coach, Eddie Jones believes © Getty Images
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is subject of increasing speculation that the Tom Richards Cup series-deciding Test against the British & Irish Lions at ANZ Stadium in Sydney will be his last in charge of Australia regardless of the result.
Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones flagged this week that continued disciplinary problems within the side would be the ultimate downfall of Deans, indicating his close friend and Rugby World Cup 2007-winning South African coach Jake White was positioned to get the job ahead of Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie.
Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan and Reds counterpart Jim Carmichael and Andrew Fagan confirmed on Friday that Australian Rugby Union (ARU) chief executive Bill Pulver had asked recently whether they would be prepared respectively to release White or McKenzie to take over as Wallabies coach. The Brumbies are reluctant to plan ahead for White's potential departure until the ARU makes a decision on Deans' future, but Fagan said this week that they would not stand in the South African's way. 'If it becomes a reality and Jake declares interest, we would support him in that,'' Fagan said. ''He would be remaining in Australian rugby and that's a positive thing for the Brumbies. But we're not paying any attention to it at the moment and wouldn't look at it until the ARU makes their decision.''
McKenzie, who announced at the start of the Super Rugby season his decision to leave the Reds, with Richard Graham already at Ballymore as the coach-in-waiting, said the ARU had not been in contact but he would consider all options as he takes the next step in his career.
Jones said Deans had done a "pretty fair job" over six seasons, reaping one Tri-Nations title in 2011 without any Bledisloe Cup success, but his inability to take a firm stance against discipline problems had placed him in a dire position. Continued misbehaviour by James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale, two players Deans has supported resolutely, has upset senior Wallabies players and rugby fans alike.
Greg Growden previews the third Test%]
"There's continuing problems off the field of ill-discipline and I think that's something that needs to get sorted out and it's obviously not going to happen under Robbie's regime," Jones told ABC Grandstand. "The thing the Australian side is missing is not ability but probably the discipline and consistency of preparation. I think if they get those two areas right for the World Cup in 2015, they're a great chance to win it."
Pulver has said publicly that Deans' immediate future did not hinge on series success against the Lions, but he has also failed to offer guarantees if the Wallabies lost on Saturday.
Jones felt the ARU had already made up their minds on Deans, and the timing of his exit would determine whether Brumbies coach White or McKenzie was given the post. "I think they will either go for Ewen to take over immediately [before The Rugby Championship] or go for Jake to take it for two years and then probably groom Ewen to take it over in 2016 and in the next two years try and sort out the [Melbourne] Rebels," he said. "I think that's almost a done deal if Jake gets the Wallabies job."
Ironically, Deans could become the Brumbies coach if he lost the Wallabies job, if he were interested in the position, although Melbourne Rebels also are reported to be eyeing the New Zealander if he becomes available.
Jones, who acted as a consultant to White and the Springboks at Rugby World Cup 2007 after being sacked by the ARU in 2005, said the South African's record as a strict disciplinarian as well as his international experience made him the strongest option. "I think Ewen would be better to have a four-year preparation rather than two years, and that's why Jake, I think, it tips the scale for him," Jones said.
Ewen McKenzie is linked with both the Australia and the Melbourne Rebels jobs © Getty Images
McKenzie, a World Cup-winning forward with the Wallabies, said he remained intent on following his dream to coach the national side but remained a realist. He will keep his options open should White be preferred, or if Deans is yet retained.
"So far I've been coaching Ireland, Scotland, the Rebels. The Rebels I think are looking at their situation. But that's all I know," McKenzie said. "But I've made it quite clear from back in February where my ambitions were [Wallabies]. Whether that happens or not is not in my hands. I've had interesting approaches from all around the world. I'll keep considering things but my main focus is trying to take the Reds as far as we can in this competition.
"I've got my ambitions. There's ambition and there's reality. You've got to look at as many things as you can as you go along. It doesn't change where you want to end up. Timing is important in these matters. We'll see.
"They [the ARU] have their own agenda and timing. They don't function around what I'm doing. All I've done is make an early decision to give clarity to the Reds staff and playing group and organisation about where I'd be in 2014. That's allowed them to make some decisions early."
Carmichael, however, told The Weekend Australian on Friday that he hoped to re-open negotiations with Mckenzie in an attempt to persuade him to remain at Ballymore if the ARU did not appoint the coach. "I haven't had a conversation with Ewen about any of this because I believe he unquestionably is the best man to coach Australia," Carmichael said. "But if the ARU doesn't offer him the job we'll do whatever we can to keep him. I would be more than prepared to look at something like reactivating the old plan if that's what he wanted."
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand with AAP