Des­per­ate days for Deans and his wob­bly Wal­la­bies

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - PETER BILLS

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.

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