Deans plots heartbreak for NZ
Sydney - Wallabies coach Robbie Deans thinks something rather special is brewing in Australian rugby and the New Zealander is determined to be around to enjoy it.
Nicknamed 'Dingo Deans' back home, the 51-year-old looks set to forego the chance of succeeding Graham Henry as All Blacks coach after the Rugby World Cup and commit his future to the Australian Rugby Union.
"First and foremost, we're doing really well this year and I would like to continue on," he said in a recent interview. "But the priority right now is what we're doing here and now."
What Deans is doing "here and now" is preparing for this year's World Cup finals, where he hopes to lead Australia to a third title at the expense of the feelings of his compatriots.
Famously a master of the dead bat, Deans is not given to the kind of hyperbole that has had ARU chief John O'Neill talking of the dawn of a new "golden era" for Australian rugby.
There is little disguising, however, his enthusiasm for young Australian talent at his disposal like backs James O'Connor, Quade Cooper, Will Genia and flanker David Pocock - especially now they have all committed to the ARU beyond the World Cup.
"You build connections, it's challenging but it's good fun," Deans added. "Obviously we're chasing some outcomes this year but ... the playing group have all, to a man re-committed. That shows how excited they are to do something.
"And they're excited about the opportunity they have in the game and I would love to continue and be part of it."
Deans played five Tests at fullback for the All Blacks in the 1980s before going on to build his coaching reputation at the Crusaders, who he led to five of their seven Super rugby titles.
At the Crusaders, he built squads that had depth and so were able to deal with the injuries that are part and parcel of the most physical of contact sports.
Even while the Super rugby competition continues and before a ball is kicked in the Tri-Nations, however, you get the impression Deans already knows who he would like in his team when the Wallabies open their World Cup against Italy on September 11.
"It's a living document, particularly because of injuries and more so the impact of injuries of those permutations," he said. "Our picture is becoming much clearer, the front end is often reasonably easy, it's more where we go to when things don't go the way we want them to."
Super rugby has contributed to his selection problems with injuries to Wallabies like winger Drew Mitchell, prop James Slipper, hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, number eight Wycliff Palu and scrumhalf Luke Burgess.
But it has also given him more options with fringe players putting their hands up for selection.
"A year or two previously, if we'd been asked to commit to a group of 30, it wouldn't have been nearly as challenging as it is right now," said Deans.
The Wallabies finally beat the All Blacks for the first time in 11 matches last October and followed that with a defeat to England before handing France a record hammering.
"It's evident that they're maturing," Deans said of his team. "We believe in them. They're getting better at bringing that more consistently to the table, which is great."
More recently, Deans has been encouraged by the performance of the Reds in Super rugby, in particular their last-minute 17-16 victory over his old team the Crusaders.
"They understand, particularly with our lot, they're chasing the sort of success that the likes of the Crusaders and the All Blacks have had," he said. "So somewhere along the line, we've got to take those steps."
If results at the World Cup went according to the world rankings, Australia would meet hosts New Zealand in the final.
So how would a proud New Zealander feel about breaking the hearts of his own nation?
"Mate, I'm well adjusted, very well adjusted," Deans laughed. "I wouldn't take any pleasure out of the All Blacks suffering, but I'll take an enormous amount pleasure out of what we do."