The humiliating loss to the British & Irish Lions was the straw that eventually broke Robbie Deans’s stubborn back. Having coached Australia for a record 74 times, Deans’s record was average at best. When he took the job he said his mission was to make them the number 1 side in the world – he did not manage this.
A poor win-loss ratio against rivals and neighbors New Zealand, as well as losses (two) to Scotland and Samoa, were the low-lights of an international career that will be soon forgotten.
Deans was never liked by the public, and it always seemed like a massive chore for him to address the media – some would call this ungrateful, as it is the media that allows for their exorbitant paychecks – but he was always respected as a coach. His record with the Crusaders in Super Rugby is unmatched in provincial history, and so one would have expected this to translate into a successful international career. It didn’t.
Many will point to disharmony in the team as a deciding factor, which could be attributed to Deans being their first ever non-Australian coach. But Deans is gone, and another very successful Super Rugby coach (this time with Aussie sides) former Wallaby prop Ewen McKenzie, is now at the helm.
“I’m looking forward to saddling up with the Wallabies,” McKenzie told reporters at a media conference in Sydney on Tuesday. “There’s a thousand things I need to work on.
“I’ll be picking a team that I think can beat the All Blacks and I’m really looking forward to that task.
“It’s a matter of getting the head-space right and getting the tactics right and having a crack.”
Mckenzie beat out hot favourite former Springbok coach and World Cup winner Jake White, who in just a couple of seasons has turned the struggling Brumbies into title contenders. The thinking seems to be that Australia need and Australian coach, and this writer tends to agree.
With McKenzie coaching the team there will be a new sense of bravery and pride in the jersey – a hallmark of the teams he has coached. We will see a mentally tougher Wallaby side and a more skillful and aggressive Wallaby pack. Whether they can consistently beat the likes of the All Blacks and, to a lesser extent, the Springboks is yet to be seen.
McKenzie’s first test will be when they take on the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship; a tough first-up assignment, but one from which a man like McKenzie would never shy.