TRUTH be known, once the first flush of excitement and enthusiasm had passed, the initial reaction of the Wallabies to Robbie Deans' arrival was one of mild disappointment.

To explain ... for years Deans has loomed over Super rugby like a colossus and as each season passed with the Crusaders tightening their stranglehold on the competition, their coach began to assume almost mythical proportions. Didn't matter who he lost, didn't matter what outside disruptions were inflicted on him, Deans kept cranking out champion sides.

And the more he did it, the more outsiders became convinced he had tapped into some magical formula that for very good reasons he was keeping to himself.
So when John O'Neill whisked him out of Christchurch before the dunderheads in the NZRU had a chance to put their fingers on precisely what it was causing those persistent and annoying flashes of self-doubt in their brains, Australians in general and the Wallabies in particular rubbed their hands together with glee.
"I always thought there had to be some secret to the Crusaders' success," a senior Wallaby said yesterday. "I couldn't wait for the first team meetings to find out what it was."

It was around this point that the mild disappointment kicked in. Turns out there was no secret at all. Everything Deans was telling them had been enunciated one-and-a-half centuries ago by American philosopher Henry David Thoreau. OK, not the bit about non-violent resistance, because Deans is the first to acknowledge that rugby is a violent sport and that turning the other cheek simply leads to matching sets of tag marks on your bum. The other bit - "our life is frittered away by detail ... simplify, simplify".

In years not too far past, had James Bond infiltrated the Wallabies team room and sneaked a peek at the whiteboard, he might have suspected he had mistakenly blundered into the Australian Labor Party headquarters because there on the wall surely had to be an old copy of Barry Jones' Knowledge Nation diagram, with its tangled spaghetti strands of interconnected nodes. Running lines, packing angles, kicking zones. It was Thoreau turned on his head. Complicate, complicate.

And suddenly here was Deans telling his players that if there was space in front of them, run to it. If a roadblock was in their way but a team-mate was free, pass him the ball. It might all have been borrowed from another great American philosopher, the late and legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, who, when asked by one of his receivers what lines he should run to get free of the defence, replied: "Run to the daylight."

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