Deans rejects Wallaby discord

2009-11-03 13:21

London - Robbie Deans has rejected talk of divisions in the Australia squad, insisting the Wallabies are united as they look to emulate the 1984 squad that completed a Grand Slam of victories over England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Deans is under pressure to get the Australia team back on track this month after an alarming set of results in 2009.

They lost five of their six Tri-Nations matches to finish bottom of the table, their last game in the tournament seeing them humiliated 33-6 by New Zealand in Wellington.

That was compounded by a 32-19 Bledisloe Cup defeat to the All Blacks in Tokyo on Saturday, the Wallabies' seventh successive reverse at the hands of their trans-Tasman rivals.

With the squad also hit by injuries to key personnel - Berrick Barnes and Nathan Sharpe are among those missing this tour, while former skipper Stirling Mortlock will only return from a calf tear next week - Australia will be up against it when they face England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Yet Deans has brushed aside his team's problems, insisting the Wallabies and the All Blacks are on the same footing going into this month's series of Test matches.

When asked if the Australia squad is united, the New Zealander said: "Yes, we believe so.

"We are working hard at it. That's the nature of this industry. There's a lot of dynamics, a lot of challenges. It's never one-way traffic.

"We haven't been able to beat New Zealand this year, but in many ways we are not too dissimilar to New Zealand. They have an opponent in the Tri-Nations series - South Africa - that they have been unable to beat and neither of us are Tri-Nations champions.

"International rugby is tough. (In June) France came down and beat New Zealand, but we were able to beat France. England were 29-0 up at half-time against France (in the Six Nations in March).

"So who's going to do well at the weekend - who knows?"

Matt Giteau, who will have to shoulder the attacking burden of the team in the absence of Mortlock and Barnes, revealed that a chat with some of the members of the 1984 group - which was led by Andrew Slack - had inspired him and his team-mates.

"There was a presentation before we came away and a few of the 1984 players were there - it was great to talk to them about the tradition and history that was behind that," said the fly-half.

"The biggest thing they got out of it was friendship. They weren't really gloating about their achievements. They were very humble about what they did but the biggest thing was how tight and close they still are after going through such a great tour."

While Australia's line-out and overall kicking game left a lot to be desired on Saturday, a crumb of comfort was their performance at scrum time.

They dominated the All Blacks in that department, which has been a Wallaby weakness in recent years, and the pack will on Saturday look to boss an England scrum that will be missing a host of its leaders because of injury.

Australia's forwards fronted up well when beating Martin Johnson's men 28-14 last November and Deans has urged his pack to repeat those exploits.

"We've been working hard on our scrum for a while now and I think our progress is evident," Deans said.

"The last time we played at Twickenham, we weren't rated there and we did well.

"We're well aware that now there is more of a threat from our scrum, we can't presume anything because you know England won't go in with their guard down."