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ESPN SCRUM / ESPNscrum Columnist
Greg Growden
Greg Growden | Columnist Index
After more than 30 years with The Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax Media in Australia, Greg Growden now writes exclusively online for ESPNscrum. Never afraid to step on toes, you can expect plenty of compelling insight from one of Australia's most renowned rugby writers.
Greg Growden writes ...
ARU must call Ewen McKenzie now
Greg Growden
July 7, 2013

If the Australian Rugby Union is serious about eradicating the Wallabies' big night flopperoo disease, they must this week replace Robbie Deans with Ewen McKenzie as Australia coach.

It is time for a change. The Australian rugby public has grown sick and tired of the Wallabies falling apart whenever big trophies are at stake. The departure of the Tom Richards Cup on Saturday night after the British & Irish Lions comprehensively whacked the Wallabies in all facets of the game showed up the team's many inadequacies as well as the folly of poor selections. Too often in the Deans area when the pressure is applied on the ever inconsistent Wallabies, they become dysfunctional: this time around the scrum imploded; attacking players showed they had no idea where to direct a clearing kick; and the backline was hindered by dubious selections, in particular not playing a specialist No 10.

Although the push for Jake White to take over from Deans, possibly even as early as this week, is strong, with the South African Rugby World Cup-winning coach having the support of several Australian Rugby Union (ARU) powerbrokers, the appointment of McKenzie would be the wiser choice.

The ARU, concerned the Wallabies have constantly been embarrassed by off-field incidents, is known to want a disciplinarian to take over. White fits that bill. He is the headmaster. But McKenzie's approach would work better. He is the conciliator. Footballers play for him. He is deeply admired by his players, with so many major Australian rugby names crediting him for making them world-class performers. He understands the psyche of the modern player. He is innovative. The Australian team would band around him. He also doesn't cop nonsense.

 
Looking at all the glum faces around them, many trying to hide their green-and-gold garb, the bearded twenty-something said to his girlfriend: "Do you think Robbie Deans will survive this?"

She replied: "Who's Robbie Deans?"
 

All Ewen McKenzie has to overcome is the pigheaded attitude of one influential ARU director, who astounded onlookers at a gathering some months ago when he said that he could never have McKenzie as Wallabies coach because, as a forward, Link had no idea of back play. Clearly this misguided director has never seen Queensland Reds play, with McKenzie instrumental in the them being the most innovative attacking team among the Australian provinces. It would be far better for Australian rugby if that director would simply walk off into the sunset, because such ridiculous comments are holding the game back. Hopefully, in recent times, that director has had a serious rethink.

Deans looked a haunted man after the Lions thrashing. So now the ARU should end the misery by making the required coaching change, because a 58 per cent success rate from 74 Tests since Deans took over after Rugby World Cup 2007 is simply not good enough. The fact the Wallabies have not won the Bledisloe Cup since 2002 is an embarrassment. Deans has had plenty of chances of ending that hideous drought, but he has fallen well short - experiencing only three wins over the All Blacks in 18 Tests.

Robbie Deans (r) and James O'Connor after losing the third Test against the Lions, Australia v British & Irish Lions, ANZ Stadium, Sydney, July 6, 2013
Robbie Deans wore the look of a haunted man after the third Test © Getty Images
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Deans, who is a good man and whose heart is in the right place, wasn't helped by receiving at times poor media advice from his gatekeeper, too often ridiculously being cocooned while team officials tried to find others to blame - including players - for their failings. Also numerous young Wallabies squad members have taken Deans for a ride. Deans played his faith in the younger players, and that created a serious divide within the team. For good reason, numerous senior players, whose behaviour has always been exemplary, were disenchanted that several young guns were able to get away with virtually any indiscretion. When players don't turn up for team announcements, even World Cup squad announcements, find themselves appearing in court, or even failing to appear in court, you would expect strict discipline. Instead, most times, it involved a slap over the wrist, and that led to discontent among the group. The final episode saw James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale photographed in a Melbourne fast food joint at 4am, a few days before the second Test. This was yet another sign of an organisation out of control.

Deans, most sadly, has lost the Australian public. On the ride back from Homebush on Saturday night, all you could hear in the train carriages was infuriated Wallabies supporters loudly blaming Deans for everything. Bad selections. Wrong tactics. An overly conservative game plan. Too many unexplained Test losses. And that Deans struggled to understand the Australian psyche. Eventually there was a reprieve. That was until a young couple about to hit the nightclub scene got on the train at Redfern.

Looking at all the glum faces around them, many trying to hide their green-and-gold garb, the bearded twenty-something said to his girlfriend: "Do you think Robbie Deans will survive this?"

She replied: "Who's Robbie Deans?"

The Wallables were humbled by the British & Irish Lions in Sydney (video available only in Australia)
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand

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