|Robbie Deans: Being interviewed by the ARU
The prospect of appointing a New Zealander as the next Wallabies coach has set alarm bells ringing in Australian rugby circles.
Former players and coaches have called on the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) to stick with an Australian instead of giving the job to a foreigner.
Five Australians, Laurie Fisher, Alan Jones, Ewen McKenzie, John Muggleton and David Nucifora, have all been interviewed for the job.
But New Zealand’s Robbie Deans is suddenly looming as the favourite after the ARU agreed to grant him a late interview when he missed out on the All Blacks position.
Former Australia coach Eddie Jones said he had his doubts about whether Deans really wanted the job after losing out on his first choice.
“There is no doubt they have to try and find the right candidate, the only thing I’d question is does Robbie really want to coach Australia,” the South African assistant coach said.
“You’ve got to have someone who wants to coach Australia, not coach Australia because he missed out on another job.”
Jones’s comments came after McKenzie, who had previously worked as an assistant coach, said he feared a foreign coach might neglect the lower levels of club rugby for the sake of the national team.
“You need to get the rugby community on board and to do that you need to know who the people are, where the influence is and where the politics are at and that is something local coaches know more about than a foreign coach,” McKenzie said.
“To come in from the outside, yeah, you can handle the team, but what about the rest of it? You’re not going to know anyone, you won’t know the personalities.”
Former Wallabies lock-turned newspaper columnist Peter Fitzsimons said it would be a “dark day” for Australian sport if a New Zealander was made coach of the Wallabies.
“Deans is a fine man, a great coach, a credit to rugby and everything else you’d want in a national coach, except one thing. He is not of the nation he is coaching,” Fitzsimons wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Certainly, that does not worry the football crowd, or most of the test cricketing nations, who are always happy to have a well-credentialed foreigner.
“But the Wallabies having a former All Black as coach, a New Zealander? Us, against our most cherished rivals, hauling up the white flag and saying that, yes, you’re right, you are the superior rugby nation, so superior that we are reduced to taking your second-best coach and making him our best coach?
“It is against nature. I want it stopped. You want it stopped. Let’s stop it.”
Deans will be interviewed by the ARU this week with a decision on the coach expected before Christmas.
The position became available after John Connolly stood down following the Wallabies’ quarter-finals exit at this year’s World Cup.