Desperate days for Deans and his wobbly Wallabies
AUSTRALIA’S rugby coach Robbie Deans is, in normal circumstances, a wily character.
To say he keeps his cards close to his chest would be like saying the KGB was always a tad reluctant to broadcast its intentions.
Yet even Deans broke with his usual habits this week to discuss the ‘W’ issue. The ‘W’ being Jonny Wilkinson, so often the nemesis of the Wallabies throughout a distinguished career.
Deans has openly discussed the England fly half and his likely impact ahead of today’s Test match before another full house at Twickenham.
He has confessed his respect for Wilkinson, his admiration for a fellow professional and his many achievements, not least in fighting back once again from serious injury.
But there has been one word Deans has not been prepared to allow slip from his lips this week. That word is desperation.
Yet as the Australians prepare for today’s Test, it is a fact that desperation is starting to creep into their minds.
Six defeats in their last seven Test matches, including seven successive defeats now to New Zealand, conspire to create panic even in the most stoical of Australian minds.
Last weekend’s Tokyo Test match defeat against New Zealand was probably expected in Australia. Truth to tell, the Wallabies put up a better showing than a few weeks earlier when they collapsed mentally in the final quarter against the same opponents in Wellington, crashing 33-6.
But losing to New Zealand is one thing.
No Australian side is ever prepared to concede it might lose to England, the hated Poms.
The thought of that fills Australian minds with dread, hence the growing sense of desperation in the Wallaby camp. Unspoken it may be but for sure it’s there, lurking in dark corridors and even darker minds.
New captain Rocky Elsom is a man who simply hates losing.
That is one of the traits that persuaded Deans to dump Stirling Mortlock as skipper and replace him with Deans.
Expect Elsom, last year’s Leinster talisman, to battle like a Trojan at Twickenham today in a bid to drag his men through to a victory that would at least give them some solace from the growing criticism back home.
The Wallabies will take a win whatever way they can grab it. There was a time when the method was as important as the outcome but no longer.
Even Deans is now under significant pressure from the alarmed gentlemen who run rugby in Australia, where the competition for the sporting dollar is white hot.
They know that a losing Wallaby side is the worst marketing tool to take out into the field. Somehow, the Australians have got to turn the tide.
To expedite that scenario, Deans has made some intriguing selections for today’s Test.
Veteran flanker and former captain George Smith retur ns in place of David Pocock and the innovative, inventive playmaker Quade Cooper is brought into the backline with Digby Ioane, on the wing in Tokyo, moved to outside centre.
Cooper is a clever, tricky player but he is a high risk one because the tricks can go wrong and his defence is questionable.
Without Mortlock, it’s a sign of Australia’s desperation that Deans has plunged the 21 year-old Cooper into the Twickenham Test.
With Ireland waiting at Croke Park next weekend, the last thing the Australians can afford is to start what was heralded as their first potential Grand Slam tour of Ireland and the UK since 1984, with a defeat.
Especially against so seriously weakened an England side.
For the Wallabies, these are desperate times indeed.
HOPING TO LEAD A REVIVAL?: Wallaby captain Rocky Elsom.