2013 British & Irish Lions
Deans plays underdog card against Lions
March 7, 2013
Robbie Deans is claiming underdog status for the Wallabies given their limited preparation time. © Scrum.com
Robbie Deans has been quick to play the underdog card ahead of his biggest series as Wallabies coach by saying the British & Irish Lions had a "huge advantage" in preparation for their three-Test battle.
Deans made no apologies for putting a 25-man squad into an extended three-week camp and off limits to their Super Rugby franchises in the build-up to the first Test in Brisbane on June 22.
While the Wallabies will come together on June 2, the Lions' best side - drawn from the four home nations England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland - will be able to play three matches together in that time on their quadrennial tour.
Deans had hoped to have one warm-up match during the camp, like Rod Macqueen's 2001 team who played New Zealand Maori before a 2-1 series win, but it will not occur and he must make do with high-contact opposed sessions.
The New Zealander rated his Wallabies' preparation the "shortest in the history of the game for a Lions series".
"You go back to 2001 and the Wallabies had similar time [to prepare] but with a [warm-up] game, so it was obviously a more complete prep, and they got spanked in the first Test," Deans said.
"Rod Macqueen who spoke with us recently, quite openly conceded that the preparation wasn't adequate, and he's genuinely concerned by what we're confronted with.
"There's no doubt the Lions will have a huge advantage in terms of entering the series."
Macqueen confirmed he spoke to Australia's extended 49-man squad at a logistics camp in January about the intensity and magnitude of the series, and underlined the ferocity of the 29-13 opening loss at the 'Gabba.
New South Wales Waratahs, Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and Queensland Reds and Western Force all wanted their star players available for June 7-9 matches but, even though the ARU has left the door ajar for player releases, Deans said bluntly the teams had enough time to get houses in order.
"If I was a franchise coach I'd be looking to control the controllables because there's 15 rounds to that point," he said.
Deans said controversial playmaker Quade Cooper had started 2013 with a clean slate despite his attack on a "toxic" team culture last year, but he also indicated he needed more continuity in his game after a rusty return.
The battle for the No. 10 jersey is the most contentious and intriguing in selection, with Deans praising the development of James O'Connor and Kurtley Beal, while acknowledging the claims of Brumbies vice-captain Christian Lealiifano.
Like code-hopping Waratahs back Israel Folau, Lealiifano is at a slight disadvantage in selection due to his lack of Test experience.
"A Lions series would be a tough cauldron for your first outing but that doesn't necessarily rule it out," Deans said. "The intensity in these games is something to behold - look at the last Brisbane Test."
"We want people who we can rely on that context ... because there will be no time to think and you want people around you in the game that you can rely on because you can't second guess your team-mates."