British & Irish Lions
Robbie Deans challenges Lions referees
May 3, 2013
Robbie Deans expects a brutal series%]
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has placed the onus squarely on the referees to ensure the three-Test series against the British & Irish Lions produces vibrant, free-flowing rugby.
As he salivates over which of his "once-in-a-generation" openside flankers he will throw at the Lions, Deans says match officials must police the ruck to prevent spoiling tactics ruining the spectacle. Deans said the battle at the breakdown, as ever, would be key to the three-Test series in June and July.
"You look at World Cups, the ante goes up and the breakdown changes and the nature of the game changes and I suspect this will be no different," Deans said. "Just the adrenaline that'll be pumping through these blokes' veins, there's going to be a lot of pressure on the referees to manage that area. Because if that area isn't managed effectively, everyone's talking about the spectacle and so forth, there'll be no spectacle; you'll struggle to find the ball. So you can only work in the circumstance that you're confronted with, so hopefully that will be an area that is adjudicated consistently and effectively. Otherwise it will just be ugly."
There is nothing ugly, though, about the embarrassment of No. 7 riches Deans has at his disposal. Even with David Pocock out for the season, Deans is likely to be able to call on ageless warrior George Smith. "You look at that cluster of David Pocock, Michael Hooper and Liam Gill, they're three almost once-in-a-generation players," Deans told AAP. "It's fantastic, and they're still young men so they've got a lot of rugby ahead of them."
Deans also lauded 32-year-old Smith - a member of Australia's 2001 series-winning line-up against the Lions who still needs to negotiate some red tape to be available - as the Wallabies' original once-in-a-generation flanker. "He's just class and he's just built for it, isn't he? He's incredibly resilient. You look at the volume of his work and the nature of his work, he never hesitates around the contact which just is a reflection of his confidence in his own frame and his own body and his technique, but also his speed of thought and movement. Because it's only when you're chasing the game that you get compromised, but he's always initiating. So because he's initiating he tends to win those moments."
Tickets for the series sold out in hours, and Deans said he personally couldn't wait for the Lions' arrival on June 3 ahead of the first Test in Brisbane on June 22. "It's going to be vibrant no matter how both sides approach it," he said. "It's going to be vibrant like no Test match you've ever seen. The ante's gone up. You look at the change in the body shapes now since 2001. They were racing sardines, and now the backs are built like the forwards were. And then you bring the enthusiasm that will come with the groups and the context with the crowd and noise, it's going to be great."
Chastised for the Wallabies' obsessive kicking during the 2011 World Cup, Deans said the hosts would need to play to Australia's traditional strengths to beat the Lions. "There'll be ball movement - don't worry about that - in order to win," he said.
Deans will name his final 31-man Wallabies squad on June 11.