THE arrival of arguably one of the world’s most talented coaches, Robbie Deans, has heralded a new era for the Wallabies, but the Kiwi’s open-mindedness and willingness to embrace his new environment is winning the hearts and minds of the Australian public.
On Monday, Deans invited nine schoolboys from different colleges dotted around the Melbourne area to partake in a training session with the Wallabies. And more recently the former Crusaders coach phoned the legendary Nick Farr-Jones to ask him to work with the new man at number 9, Luke Burgess.
Farr-Jones, the glittering star of Wallaby rugby in the 1980s and 1990s, is already a fan of the Deans’ way as the Kiwi sets about rebuilding Australian rugby following their traumatic exit from the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
“That’s the first time I’ve been asked to work with any Australian half-back since I stopped playing,” said Farr-Jones, a dentist by profession. “That open-minded policy is so refreshing.”
Refreshing also was Deans’ selection to face Ireland on Saturday which sees Burgess take over the No 9 gold jersey, one which George Gregan filled for 139 Tests. Farr-Jones was first to endorse the talents of the 24-year-old, who only started to catch the eye upon his transfer from the ACT Brumbies to the NSW Waratahs.
Jones has described him as the “most complete young half-back of the past decade” and a battle-royale awaits the expected 40,000 spectators inside the Telstra Dome between the new boy, Burgess, and 83-times capped Peter Stringer, who is starting his first Test since the Georgia match at the RWC.
“You can have all the skills of a scrum half — the pass, the short-side attack, the organising of the defence — but it’s the judgement that separates the best from the pack,” said Farr-Jones who captained Australia to World Cup glory in 1991. “The number of times he makes the right call is high.”
Most exciting of all to watch will be the Wallabies’ combination at nine, 10 and 12, positions which are filled by the exuberant young talents of Burgess, 24, Matt Giteau, 25, and Berrick Barnes, 22.
Giteau’s partnership with Burgess, for example, can clearly offer a two-pronged threat to Ireland, while Barnes — best known as a out-half — offers something special at inside centre.
“Luke definitely suits my style of game,” said Giteau, the versatile Western Force star who can also play scrum-half and inside centre.
“He threatens the line and if he has those people guessing in tight, it opens up a bit more space for me out wider. We certainly do complement each other.”
Deans describes Burgess – who has Irish ancestors — as a genuine threat to any opposition.
“He’s a player who’s got a lot of courage and is not afraid of any element of the game which is good — that means he’s unlikely to get traumatised. He’ll keep playing, which is a good threat as well.”
Burgess will be joined by another new cap in the starting XV in Peter Hynes. Hynes, a former 400m hurdler, has exceptional speed and, with Lote Tuqiri manning the other wing, the two offer pace which has been a constant with Deans-coached teams over the last decade.
Deans may be on a charm offensive with the Australian public but he knows he will be judged on results.
He’s mindful of the fact that the Irish will be at an advantage in that Michael Bradley’s side have had “two preparations” ahead of this Test while Australia’s players have had no game together and no competitive rugby in three-and-a-half weeks.
He scrutinised Ireland’s performance against the All Blacks — the team many felt Deans was destined to coach following the World Cup — admitting how impressed he was with Ireland’s physicality.
“They (Ireland) are a group that has played a lot of rugby together, in particular in the respective units of up front and down back and they bring with them a lot of physicality.
“It’s their last game before a break so they are going to bring everything they have got and they will throw everything at us. They were pretty impressive around the contact last week and they will be looking to do that this weekend,” said Deans.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved