Result leaves one coach with a lot of explaining to do

That Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies both played wonderfully well in the thrashing of the Wallabies doesn’t completely justify Warren Gatland’s cruel dismissal of Brian O’Driscoll, but it surely saves him from having to do a heck of a lot of explaining in the days and years to come.

Result leaves one coach with a lot of explaining to do

The Irish contingent, both transient and permanent, who were in this part of the world the past week were furious when the news came through on Wednesday, so I can only begin to imagine what the mood was like in Ireland itself.

My Kerry-born grandfather died 70 years ago and was a hurling man, but I still sensed I heard him having a decent old grumble when the news came through that he, in whom we trust, couldn’t even find a spot on the bench.

As it transpired, it was the type of game in which an O’Driscoll in his prime, at the back end of his career or as a decrepit pensioner would probably have thrived. Even for Wallaby supporters, there was a tinge of regret seeing him sitting in the stands with the blazer on and allowed no influence on the play.

If you looked hard enough there was perhaps some logic in the choice of the Roberts-Davies combination, but armed with a periscope, microscope and powerful set of binoculars it was still impossible to work out how the man widely expected to be captaining the side couldn’t be found a place in the reserves.

I imagine I’m preaching to the converted but amid the euphoria of a series win, there is disappointment that one of the great contributors to the history of the British and Irish Lions wasn’t given the chance for a final on-field contribution. It wouldn’t have been based on sentiment, but rather common sense.

So, while the scoreboard afforded one coach an opportunity to avoid a lifetime of what-ifs, it’s most likely spelled the end of the line for another.

Robbie Deans’ six-year reign in charge of the Wallabies looks to have run its race, with the ARU ready to call stumps on him before the Rugby Championship begins in six weeks.

It’s been a stewardship marked by poor selections and inconsistent performances, and that was never better illustrated than in the series just completed. The Wallabies scrum had competed well in the first two Tests, and there were even moments of dominance. In Sydney on Saturday night, it was a shambles and gave the Lions the leg-up they’d been expecting since kick off in Brisbane.

Deans’ refusal to use the brilliant, if occasionally erratic, fly-half Quade Cooper at all in the series said something about his reluctance to take risks in the chase for reward.

James O’Connor is a wonderful footballer — just ask Jonny Sexton and Sean O’Brien, who were on the wrong end of an embarrassing and potentially game-changing moment just before half time. Their combined attempts to halt O’Connor’s progress proved fruitless and his try put the Wallabies back in the contest.

The trouble for the Wallabies is that O’Connor, for all his individual skills, is a very average fly-half. Deans’ poor analysis that put him in the No 10 jersey in the first place, and then his stubborn refusal to acknowledge that it wasn’t working, will be just another log that breaks the camel’s back.

Ewen McKenzie and World Cup-winning Springbok coach Jake White have been sounded out for the top job and an announcement might not be far away.

After a lot of debate as to the whys and wherefores of a former All Black in Deans coaching the Wallabies, there won’t be Australia-wide support for South African White to get the job ahead of former Wallaby prop McKenzie.

At least the ARU will be making their decision on the back of a series that has revived the flagging fortunes of the code in this country.

In an extremely competitive footballing landscape, rugby had arguably fallen to fourth on the list behind Australian Rules football, rugby league and soccer.

Minimal success in recent years and a dull style of play has had even the devotees of the game frustrated. The hoopla surrounding the Lions Tests has done its bit to get people interested again.

The Lions got what they came for and the Wallabies know that with a bit of tinkering they are not that far off the pace.

The first thing they need to do is to get their selections right. Any chance Brian O’Driscoll might now be available for Australia?

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