The Australian Rugby Union has expressed its confidence in Wallabies coach Robbie Deans and feels that the big injury count contributed to some disappointing results in 2012.
Recently, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said he was satisfied with South Africa’s progress in 2012 considering the number of injuries suffered by senior players. The Boks may have won seven, drawn two, and lost three, but Meyer said that with all the injuries, that record was relatively successful.
On Wednesday, the ARU expressed the same sentiment. Deans has been under pressure following the Wallabies’ slide to No 3 in the world rankings, and with the British & Irish Lions tour looming, there are many that feel he should be axed.
The ARU, however, are satisfied that Deans is the right man for the job, and that critics should take the Wallabies’ injury situation into account before slamming the coach and team.
‘You’ve got to put the Wallabies’ performance in context with how many injuries we’ve had,’ said ARU chairman Michael Hawker. ‘We’ve had 55 people play for the Wallabies this year which is a pretty poor number of players, so we’ve had an unusual level of injury rate.
‘That’s something we’re looking at as to why that occurred and how we might be able to do about that. We can actually improve the better player management process between the ARU and the Super Rugby franchises to make sure the player welfare is managed right collectively across those two levels of the game.
‘When you’ve got a team that has playmakers such as [Will] Genia, [James] O’Connor, [Quade] Cooper, [David] Pocock and [Kurtley] Beale, who didn’t play the whole year … If you took [Dan] Carter and Richie McCaw out of the New Zealand team, you’d have a different proposition. We had five major playmakers out of our game and we had a pretty good record.’
Hawker confirmed that Deans was under no added pressure to obtain better results in 2013.
‘From the Australian Rugby Union, we’re happy with where the Australian team is,’ he said. ‘We’d like to have less injuries and I think if we didn’t have as many injuries, we would’ve been right at the top.
‘Next year is a huge year with the Lions making a once-in-12-year journey down here. Having just come from the northern hemisphere, people are hugely excited over there to be here. It always creates a huge wave of anticipation seeing the best of the northern hemisphere come here. We’re pretty keen to try and thump them. They’re going to be a very competitive side and we’re going to be a very competitive side and I think it’s going to generate plenty of interest.
‘I think the coaches think of every year as make or break. I don’t think Robbie takes anything for granted. For us, I think everyone in the Australian public are keen to win all the games and so is Robbie. He’ll do all he can. In the board’s view, we have every chance of defeating the Lions next year.’
What will give the Australians confidence is their results against the northern hemisphere over the past few months. The Wallabies lost to France and Scotland in 2012, but beat Wales four times, and England and Italy once.
The home nations haven’t been much better against the other southern hemisphere giants. New Zealand beat Ireland three times in June, and cruised to victory in games against Scotland, Wales and Italy in November. The All Blacks did, however, lose to England in their final match of the year.
South Africa recorded five wins and one draw against northern hemisphere opposition in 2012. It’s fair to say the south still holds sway, and the Lions may battle to win yet another series when they tour Australia next year.