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Thread: Coach destined for Test glory, either way

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    Coach destined for Test glory, either way

    Coach destined for Test glory, either way

    Duncan Johnstone | December 8, 2007

    ROBBIE DEANS'S knock-back from the All Blacks coaching position will be a severe test for a man whose hallmarks have been patience and persistence.

    Eight years of toil with the Crusaders, where he has truly stamped himself as Super Rugby's best coach, have meant nothing in terms of trying to land the top job in New Zealand.

    The transition to coaching always seemed likely for the long-time Canterbury player who earned five caps for the All Blacks. He coached Canterbury from 1997 to 2000, guiding them to the national title in 1997. With rugby turning professional, he formed a strong association with the Crusaders, initially as manager.

    He took over the coaching reins in 2000 and has been in charge ever since, guiding the Crusaders to the play-offs seven times in eight years, winning the title four times and finishing runners-up twice.

    In 2001, he was persuaded to become John Mitchell's assistant at the All Blacks, and they formed a powerful partnership, leading the All Blacks to 22 wins from 27 Tests, with one draw.

    Importantly, they returned the Bledisloe Cup to New Zealand after a long absence in Australia. But the Wallabies had the final say on the Mitchell-Deans combination when they upset New Zealand in the 2003 World Cup semi-final in Sydney.

    The axe came down quickly, and Graham Henry took over.

    Deans is very much a players' coach. He has a strong rapport with his squad and his assistants.

    His ability to continually reinvent the Crusaders speaks volumes for his rugby brain. He has based much of his success with them around a resolute defensive system with flashes of brilliant attack.

    One of the great thinkers on the modern game, the 48-year-old has been at the forefront of the push to have the experimental laws introduced into next year's Super 14.

    It will be interesting to see how he now goes about implementing those as the Crusaders search for another Super rugby title.

    Don't bet against Deans pulling off another master stroke with the red and blacks. And don't bet against him heading to Australia after the Super 14 to take charge of the Wallabies.

    This is a man craving a Test job - one that may come back to haunt the All Blacks in Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup battles, not to mention the World Cup. It may all turn out to be hugely embarrassing to New Zealand rugby.


    ARU's shortlist of one

    December 8, 2007

    Within days of interviewing candidates for the Wallabies coaching job on November 9, Australian Rugby Union high performance boss Pat Howard asked staff to make a restaurant reservation so he could dine with Robbie Deans.

    The rendezvous at a select Sydney restaurant was to have been secret - the ARU was still denying that Deans was being head-hunted. No matter that most observers believed Deans was still rated as the ARU's favourite choice, despite five contenders being shortlisted: Laurie Fisher, Alan Jones, Ewen McKenzie, John Muggleton and David Nucifora.

    It was arguably the worst-kept secret of the year in Australian rugby that Deans was favourite to be offered the post. He had been seen in Sydney earlier in the year with Howard's predecessor, Pat Wilson, officially to play squash. But at the World Cup in France, he even met ARU chief executive John O'Neill in Paris to discuss the job.

    This latest revelation to the Herald that the dinner plans between Howard and Deans were meant to have been hush-hush only firmed the growing belief the ARU was playing a waiting game for yesterday's news, when Deans was overlooked for the All Blacks coaching job.

    But the ARU would still not budge on its denial that it was chasing Deans.

    "We can't come out and say anything of that nature because there is a process in play," ARU deputy chief executive Matt Carroll said yesterday.

    But most still believe Deans's appointment is a fait accompli and only needs the ARU board's formal approval during its two-day meeting next Thursday and Friday, and his signature to the contract. Albeit, after Graham Henry won the battle between Deans, Colin Cooper and Ian Foster to retain the All Blacks coaching job, a gutted and exhausted Deans was non-committal about a coaching future in Australia when asked.

    "I don't know. It's going to be great back here and [to] get back to the Crusaders," said Deans yesterday at Christchurch Airport before heading off to St Barnabas Church, where he was due to attend the wedding of Canterbury Crusaders halfback Andy Ellis. "I feel I have neglected [the Crusaders] a little bit. In the last few weeks it's been pretty hectic. So I am looking forward to that. Outside of that, I quite simply don't know."

    Deans bravely tried to mask the pain of rejection. But it was clear his pain was being shared among his loyal supporters. Foremost among them was former All Blacks and current Western Force coach John Mitchell, who was sacked after losing the 2003 World Cup semi-final - Henry only made the quarter final - to Australia.

    Of his 2003 All Blacks assistant, Mitchell said: "Robbie was clearly the best man for the job. It's just a great shame politics continues to contaminate the process there. New Zealand's loss could well be Australia's gain."

    Throughout Australian rugby yesterday, opinion was weighted in expectation that Deans would accept a deal that, as reported in the Herald last week, is believed to be worth more than $1 million a year. It is understood that the ARU package will include a $950,000 annual salary, a car and bonus payments. Even the majority of the other five applicants are thought to believe it's his for the taking. (With no allegiance to the East Coast and his good mate living in Perth, I wonder, if he gets the job, if we may see the next Wallaby Coach based on the West Coast?!)

    "Three [applicants] who I have spoken to are of the view that the ARU, and in particular John O'Neill, have wanted Robbie Deans. And fair enough too," a source told Herald yesterday.

    It is also understood that as the process drags on, concerns are growing over how the ARU has conducted it. If the ARU is so keen to secure Deans, as it appears, why did the ARU even call for applicants who have had to prepare detailed and lengthy presentations supporting their case and undergo psychological tests and interviews? It is a question that began as a whisper and is now an outright demand.

    Yesterday, the ARU responded by clarifying its position amid feverish speculation over Deans's candidacy. However, the ARU let slip a little of its satisfaction yesterday. In a statement, the ARU said it "congratulates Graham Henry on his reappointment" - as would any rival union intent on recruiting the man the NZRU rejected.

    However, Carroll was quick to justify the ARU's interview process. He also stressed that, as of yesterday's 2pm press conference, Deans was still not an official applicant for the position. But then the ARU's door opened to offer Deans a chance to officially throw his hat in the ring as a candidate at the ARU board meeting next Thursday and Friday in Sydney.

    "Robbie Deans was not interviewed because he was not a candidate," said Carroll, adding that the ARU board would review the recommendation paper on the five candidates submitted by the panel set up to interview them.

    "[But] if he should become interested in the position then that is something for the board to consider at its meeting next week. That is entirely up to the board of the ARU where we proceed from there. The most important thing is that we get the best man to take the Wallabies forward to the 2011 World Cup. It is up to the ARU board if they want to initiate any action, but at this stage we haven't spoken to Robbie Deans."

    Carroll said he could not shed any light on whether the coaching issue would be resolved at the board meeting that O'Neill, who is still recovering from a recent neck operation, will take part in by telephone hook-up.

    But Carroll could neither guarantee that the board would even accept the recommendations of the selection panel. Which all led to speculation that the process could well extend into the New Year, which would suit the ARU and Deans.

    It would give Deans time to clear his head after yesterday's disappointment, and the ARU the chance to unveil its new coach with O'Neill back on deck to make the grand announcement.

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    Legend Contributor Thequeerone's Avatar
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    Today the ARU are going to make an announcement about the Coaching position - wondering if they will say thanks but no thanks to the existing candidates and open the process again - might get others interested as well perhaps Jake White might take a shot at the top job here

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    Fox are saying he's not interested and wants to focus on the Crusaders but may take a lesser role.
    I think that is an interpretation of his press conference straight after the AB announcement rather than an updated viewpoint though.
    Also says that he was given the impression that Henry will be there for the full four years so more incentive to take the Wallabies if he wants to take it to the national level.
    However he would be a walk up start for the AB's in four years so maybe he is a patient man and won't be "told" (ie Australian media speculation) what to do.

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