Deans excited by Lions challenge
November 29, 2011
Deans raises a smile in training ahead of his side's clash with Wales in Cardiff © Getty Images
Australia coach Robbie Deans has vowed to finish what he has started with the forthcoming series against the British & Irish Lions in 2013 set to be key proving ground for his young squad.
Deans' young squad - featuring the world-class talents of James O'Connor (21), Quade Cooper (23), Kurtley Beale (22), David Pocock (23) and Will Genia (23) - failed to add Rugby World Cup glory to their Tri-Nations crown earlier this year with their hopes of an unprecedented double ended by eventual winners New Zealand in the semi-finals.
As a result, Deans insists there is plenty of unfinished business to attend to with the eagerly-anticipated showdown with the elite tourists in 18 months time a significant stepping stone towards the 2015 World Cup in England. "I've put a lot in already and I do have a real sense of wanting to finish what I have started and no doubt that it is far from done," Deans said following the confirmation of the Lions 10-game schedule.
Deans' young squad - featuring the world-class talents of James O'Connor (21), Quade Cooper (23), Kurtley Beale (22), David Pocock (23) and Will Genia (23) - are all excited by the prospect of tackling the Lions with that rare opportunity a factor in their commitment to Australian rugby. "A lot of our blokes have re-committed to Australian rugby and I have no doubt that at the back of their minds was the fact that this Lions series was coming up," Deans said. "They have heard players from past generations talk about how good they are and how distinct they are from the routine traditional fixtures that we play. The World Cup excites them and that comes around every four years but the Lions tour is once in every 12 and as a result of that some exceptional rugby players never had the opportunity to play them.
"It is a context that is unique," he added. "You look at a Lions series where you have an army of red that is going to invade Australia. That creates an unprecedented context for the game. You don't get that anywhere else in rugby union."
Deans, who faced the Lions as a player during his days with Canterbury, is excited by the prospect of coaching against the Lions but stressed it was the potential of his side that was the reason by his own decision to re-sign with the Australian Rugby Union. "It wasn't so much who we were going to be playing against it is more who I am working with and everything that makes up that experience," he explained. "We came out of the World Cup a little bit frustrated but confident there is some great rugby coming and the playing group is excited by that, and likewise I am too."
Asked how far the current crop of Wallabies could go, Deans said: "It doesn't really matter what I think, that is what we will chase. As we've seen already it's a tough arena and you can't assume anything, we've just got to keep taking those steps required to get those results, those outcomes and we're not alone in that."
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.