ARU must call Ewen McKenzie now
July 7, 2013
Robbie Deans' Wallabies have won only 58% of their 74 Tests © Getty Images
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.
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 wore the look of a haunted man after the third Test © Getty Images
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
Communication error please reload the page.
The Chiefs beat the Cheetahs in Hamilton to regain winning form, but only after they had conceded 12 penalties and received two yellow cards in the first half
Bernie Ecclestone says Formula One needs to be a lot better at facing its problems and admits he is disappointed in the sport
Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder said George North was "OK now" after the winger was carried off the pitch on a stretcher following a blow to the head
After another disastrous night out, the Reds fell to a one-point loss to the Lions, but Reds coach Richard Graham still believes the Reds have a chance to make the finals
England manager Roy Hodgson confirmed that Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck will miss Tuesday's international friendly against Italy with injury, while Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling will also be excused from the game in Turin
Who has driven in the most GPs before taking pole position?
Mudslinging and an agreement on something that will never happen, it's all in a day's work for a Formula One boss, as Maurice Hamilton explains...
Fallout continues from the NSW-Brumbies derby, with one Tahs forward - not Potgieter - surprised by other unsavoury comments during the game, Greg Growden reports
Greg Growden previews Super Rugby round 7. We've also got key stats, team news and all the line-ups to inform your ESPN Footytips Super Rugby picks
Will Mercedes dominate again? Can anybody catch up with the help of a rainstorm? And will the Red Bull/Renault relationship tear itself apart? All those questions and more will be answered at this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix
Kevin De Bruyne would consider a move back to Chelsea despite barely featuring in his time at Stamford Bridge, sources told ESPN
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge fears an extended spell out of action after tearing a hip muscle, England manager Roy Hodgson has revealed
Manchester United are determined to keep Angel Di Maria at Old Trafford, club sources have told ESPN, despite recent uncertainty over his future
Barcelona forward Luis Suarez has said he was treated "worse than if I were a hooligan" when FIFA banned him for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup
Andy Murray has expressed fears that his game will regress without full-time coaching in a candid exchange with a fellow Twitter user as he prepares to add former world No.4 Jonas Bjorkman to his coaching team
Everton defender Phil Jagielka is to have surgery on a badly gashed ankle, manager David Moyes has confirmed
Unbeaten heavyweight Dillian Whyte, 28, (14-0, 11 KOs) tells ESPN where his rivalry with Anthony Joshua stems from and outlines the plan for his career this year after returning from a doping ban in November
Who has driven in the most GPs before taking pole position?
Some of the best fighters to ever glove up have plied their trade in the Octagon - now ESPN list the 10 best who have fought under the UFC banner
Who was the first Briton to win the British Grand Prix?