Greg Growen
'Solutions available if ARU has courage'
Andy Withers
July 8, 2013
Greg Growden and Alan Jones say Robbie Deans must go

The Wallabies can be resurrected if only Australian Rugby Union officials have the courage to do something in the wake of the humbling defeat by the British & Irish Lions in the decisive third Tom Richards Cup Test in Sydney on Saturday, ESPNscrum columnist Greg Growden says.

Australia and their fans went to ANZ Stadium full of hope and belief that the Wallabies could defeat the Lions after levelling the series in the second Test at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne the week previously, but the team was firmly on the back foot from the moment Will Genia knocked on the opening kick-off - a mistake upon which the Lions capitalised to score a converted try within two minutes. The Wallabies were consigned to playing catch-up football from that moment, and they were unable ever to gain equal footing despite a brave fightback either side of half-time to reduce the margin to 19-16, Robbie Deans' team slumping to a 41-16 defeat.

"It's time for a change," Growden told Alan Jones on the 2GB Breakfast show on Monday after the host had said that Australian "rugby went backwards on Saturday at 100mph, and the talent here in Australia deserves better" than Deans' coaching and game plan.

Growden said the Lions' victory in Sydney, and the manner in which the Wallabies were dominated in all facets of the game, particularly in the forwards battle, did not augur well for the future starting with the 2013 Rugby Championship that kicks off in August,

"Deans has had five-and-a-half years, we're treading water, and if an average British & Irish Lions team can beat us I fear what the All Blacks will do," Growden said. "The All Blacks are a better team than the Lions. And at the moment the Wallabies are so inconsistent, they'll play one good game then fall in a heap. They're just too soft."

"We're now five-and-a-half-years into Robbie Deans' reign and we're still using a makeshift No.10."

Growden said that "softness" was a result of Deans' indulgence of "the rock stars" in the team despite off-field issues and poor discipline that saw reports on Monday that serial offenders James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale had missed a team bus to a training session ahead of the third Test.

Will Genia reacts after the third Test loss, Australia v British & Irish Lions, Tom Richards Cup, ANZ Stadium, Sydney, July 6, 2013
Will Genia was devastated by the Sydney lost © Getty Images

And he questioned the coaching given to the players, saying basic skills and game management were "poor". "Why were they kicking to Leigh Halfpenny, the most dangerous player on the field," Growden asked. "Why don't they have someone teaching them how to properly kick a football?"

Growden reiterated his belief that Deans had erred badly in his refusal to select Quade Cooper in the Wallabies squad to face the Lions, or to move Beale into the chief playmaking role after O'Connor had been poor in the series-opening Test at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

"We're now five-and-a-half-years into Robbie Deans' reign and we're still using a makeshift No.10," he said. "The most important position is the playmaker, and we should have had someone established in that spot years ago. You have Kurtley Beale, who played all his schoolboy football at No.10 - played very well - he should have been the No.10. If Robbie Deans had problems with Quade Cooper because of his attitude, fine; but it's a big gamble trying someone who'd played just one Test match at No.10 to play against the Lions. They had the opportunity to do something after the first Test when O'Connor was poor, and they didn't. I know Quade Cooper is unpredictable, but he has that X-factor."

Growden wants outgoing Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie to assume the Wallabies' reins, saying "he's done the hard yards, he's successful" and "encourages players to play". Growden also said that Reds and Wallabies winger Digby Ioane would not be leaving Australian rugby to play in France were McKenzie to coach Queensland again next season or coach the Wallabies.

But he said that he had "mail" to suggest Brumbies coach Jake White was "odds-on" to claim the Wallabies job because of his "fail-safe style" of football and because he is known to be a strict "disciplinarian" who will change the off-field culture of the "rock stars".

Growden also noted that Australian coaches Michael Cheika and Scott Johnson were viable candidates, saying the former was "transforming the Waratahs" and the latter was "doing wonderful things with Scotland".

"There are solutions if the ARU has the courage."

James Horwill had to congratulate Sam Warburton © Getty Images
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
Andy Withers is Editor of ESPNscrum (Australia / New Zealand)

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