Wellington - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has sprung to the defence of his Wallabies rival Robbie Deans, who is under mounting pressure to swiftly turn around Australia's fortunes or face the sack.
Rumblings about the New Zealand-born Deans' tenure as Wallabies coach have been growing since their semi-final loss in the Rugby World Cup last year and reached a crescendo following the 22-0 hammering by the All Blacks last weekend.
That heavy loss extended Deans's woeful record against New Zealand to 14 defeats in 17 starts, but Hansen said in a radio interview Wednesday that his former coaching colleague should not shoulder all the blame.
"Just because Australia aren't winning against us doesn't make Robbie a bad coach. He had a great record with the Crusaders, where he obviously had a really good team."
Deans coached the Crusaders to four Super Rugby titles and had Hansen as his assistant when they won in 2000, although the relationship has cooled significantly since.
"I've spent a lot of time coaching with him, he's not a bad coach. Any team that gets his services are going to benefit from it," Hansen said.
"They're still the number two side in the world. He's copping a lot of flak for losing to us, rather than people looking at the bigger picture."
The Wallabies' loss on Saturday was the first time in 50 years they failed to score against the All Blacks. It also meant they had lost the Bledisloe Cup, contested between the two countries, for the 10th straight year.
Media reports in Australia suggest Deans will be replaced if the Wallabies do not win their remaining home-and-away Rugby Championship matches against South Africa and Argentina.
If Deans is replaced, he could take over the Waratahs coaching role, which has been left vacant since Michael Foley announced at the end of the Super Rugby season he was moving to the Force.