Robbie Deans is sliding down a slippery slope, and don’t be surprised if he slides through the exit door too by the end of the year. It seems like it may have been left slightly ajar by the Australian Rugby Union.
The All Blacks had had the ‘three wise men’ at the helm, whereas Australia had Deans....and not much else. A fall-out ensued which saw many of Deans cohorts in the coaching box released from their contracts. Deans remained though. Unlike NZ’s unsuccessful 2007 campaign in which Graham Henry and co were given the chance to show that they had learnt their lessons afterwards, the ARU were far less forgiving. If Deans seems to be in a weakened position now, times are going to get a whole lot tougher from now on in!
If reports are to be believed, the ARU are to announce the signing of Tony McGahan, who will take on a wide ranging role of ‘coaching coordinator’ in Australian Rugby. McGahan has made waves with his coaching success with Irish Provincial side Munster over the last 7 years and was initially offered a job as a defensive coach under Robbie Deans by the ARU. McGahan however rejected the approach, forcing the ARU’s hand to offer a different (and far more influential) role to get their man. He commented to the Irish times:
"I was asked to consider the position and I certainly wouldn't have considered going back as a specialised unit coach, whether it be defence or attack, so it's a coaching coordinator's role.....I'll run the whole training program while the national side is in Test-match mode from June to December and also run the program and the players back in their provinces from January through to June. So I'll be dealing with the totality of the strength and conditioning, the medical, the rugby side of things, strategy, the review, preview of the game itself and also the individuals.’
If this is the case, what exactly will Robbie Deans have control over? Australia was undone by Ireland’s ‘choke tackle’ in New Zealand, and it seems Deans is being shackled once more by the neck. No longer will Deans have a free reign. McGahan will have a hand in strategy as well as the training program of the National side. If English fans don’t like the idea of Rob Andrew having a role above the England Coach, McGahan’s role is far more interfering and unsettling. Australian fans should be worried. The ARU might have created a problem here, which could have been avoided.
McGahan is an abrasive character and it’s going to be interesting to see how the story unfolds in regard to these changes. Deans is no pussycat himself. One senses a power struggle is going to begin in 2012. If Deans’ Wallabies falter during this year’s Rugby Championship, don’t be surprised to see him get the boot. Reds coach Ewen McKenzie is waiting in the wings while Tony McGahan is lurking in the corridors of power too.