Vultures closing in on Deans
Vultures closing in on DeansSHARE
The vultures were closing in on Wallaby coach Robbie Deans, after yet another dismal failure, but his players have huddled in support of their embattled mentor.
Australia's failure to regain the Bledisloe Cup from New Zealand has upped the pressure on the under-fire Kiwi, Deans, and raised questions as to whether he will see out his contract.
The Wallabies were humbled 22-0 by the World Cup champions, the All Blacks, at Eden Park in Auckland at the weekend, continuing their run of losses at the ground stretching back to 1986.
It was also the first time in 50 years Australia had failed to score against the All Blacks, whose defence swamped an attacking Wallabies backline capable of destroying most other teams when the mood takes them.
While the players presented a united front behind Deans on Sunday, the coach admitted the latest setback would do nothing to silence his critics.
But the New Zealand-born Deans said his focus was on preparing his side for the remainder of the Rugby Championship and not on his own position.
"We now reset our sights on South Africa and Argentina," Deans said.
"It's not about me – it's about the team and what we do.
"No doubt [there will be pressure]). It's the nature of the industry. We're not the number one side in the world – it's pretty evident who is.
"It [job security] is the last thing on my mind at the moment. It's about the team. We have to now pick it up and carry on."
The morning after surrendering the Bledisloe Cup to New Zealand for a 10th straight year, players made the stark admission they're not in the same league as the Kiwis.
The goal this year was to supplant New Zealand as the world No.1 team, but silver has become the new gold for the world No.2 Wallabies.
South Africa can leapfrog the Wallabies if they beat them in Perth on September 8 and, after two emphatic losses to New Zealand, Australia say the rest of the inaugural Rugby Championship is now all about fighting to remain the second best team in the world.
The bar of expectation has clearly been lowered after Australia.
However veteran hooker Stephen Moore insisted their under-fire coach hasn't lost the support of the dressing room, despite growing calls for Deans' head given his dire 3-14 win-loss record against the All Blacks.
"We go through it ourselves as well. It's a team game so we all take responsibility for what's going on, both on and off the field. I think both of them go hand in hand," said Moore.
"We need to make sure we carry ourselves in the right manner off the field if we want to make sure we're getting our performances right on the field.
"[New Zealand] are without doubt the No.1 side in the world … there's quite a way there to us in second place and the challenge for us now is to try and maintain that spot in the next period of time against the Boks and Argentina."
Debutant flank Liam Gill agreed Australia were now focused on being the best of the rest.
"They've proven they are the No.1 team and now we've got to hold our spot as I guess the No.2 team."
When questioned about his future on Sunday, Deans stuck with the line that "it's not about me, it's about this group and the Wallabies and what we do."
The coach said criticism of him and speculation over whether he will see his contract through until the end of 2013 could serve as a distraction to the team.
However, he hoped players would move on quickly from their latest morale-sapping experience against New Zealand as they face trips to Pretoria and Rosario.
Deans believes the All Blacks were close to invincible on Saturday night.
"Things can go wrong in terms of mindset but yeah, obviously when they're on the case, on the job, playing at the destination that they have had a lot of history in and are very comfortable, you'd probably suggest yes," said Deans, who must also prepare to stop another loss to the All Blacks after the Rugby Championship in October.
"They'll experience some adversity along the way there's no doubt … but I'd be very surprised if they didn't finish top of the heap again at the end of this year."
Earlier, at a media conference for the victors, All Black coach Steve Hansen was pointedly asked how long a New Zealand mentor would last in the job if they had a record like Deans.
"Why don't you give me a loaded gun?," Hansen said to the reporter, resisting an opportunity to have another shot at his rival.
"Why don't you just pull the trigger yourself? We all know the answer to that so I'm not even going to go there."
Deans also got support from Australian great Simon Poidevin, who said sacking Deans mid-contract would be "ridiculous".
Deans is contracted until the end of 2013, but former Wallabies coach Alan Jones has been one notable critic calling for the ARU to make an immediate coaching change after New Zealand secured the Bledisloe Cup for a 10th successive year on Saturday.
Ewen McKenzie, long mooted as the likely replacement, is still contracted with Queensland.
The ARU denied there would be a review of Deans' position following the back-to-back losses to the world champion All Blacks.
Poidevin believed Deans deserved the right to see out his deal, with the only exception being if the man himself decided he'd run out of answers.
"Well you wouldn't make a change now, why would you make a change now, it's ridiculous," Poidevin told AAP.
"Robbie Deans is a very honest person and if he thinks he can't do the job he'll step aside.
"The last time I looked I think we were still ranked second in the world so that's reality.
"Robbie Deans isn't going to get replaced in the short term this year.
"It was very clear when he got his extension that getting the Bledisloe Cup back, winning a [(Rugby Championship] doing well over 2012-13 was important. If that didn't happen he wouldn't go to the next World Cup."
Jones has claimed that Wallabies players are growing tired of the style of play Deans is coaching as they sit on the bottom of the Rugby Championship.
Australia's 1984 grand slam-winning mentor said the ARU must find a new man to coach the Wallabies because Deans "isn't up to it".
"You can't possibly stay with this structure. It's quite clear the way they're playing the game against the very best teams can't work … it's total defence orientation, every time you get the ball you kick it away," Jones told Triple M's The Ruck.
"Here's an outstanding team with remarkable talent and if you talk to the players, but of course they can't talk, they'll tell you they are unhappy."
Poidevin agreed with Jones about the negative play, but argued that the Wallabies were injury-affected, up against a great All Blacks side and simply not a "golden era team" themselves.
"Australian rugby supporters find it particularly frustrating not bringing the Bledisloe Cup back to Australian shores but it's a tough thing to win," Poidevin said.
"Alan Jones was a remarkable coach who was blessed with, mainly through his own selection prowess, an extremely strong team.
"I don't think Australia are in a similar position right now … I don't think it's all about style of game."
Sources: AAP & NZ Newswire