Robbie Deans has offered Rugby Australia some sage advice after becoming the first big name to rule himself out as a contender to replace Eddie Jones as Wallabies coach.
Deans remains Australia’s longest-serving Wallabies coach, having presided over 75 Tests between 2008 and 2013 for a record of 44 wins, two draws and 29 losses.
The New Zealand great also coached the Crusaders to five Super Rugby crowns before enjoying similarly huge success in Japan with the Panasonic Wild Knights.
But after being floated as a candidate to take over from Jones, who dramatically quit this week just 10 months into his five-year deal, Deans on Wednesday said he had no interest in the Wallabies job.
“You don’t go back,” he said after the Wild Knights’ training session at Ballymore ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Queensland Reds.
“It’s never good to go back, I don’t think.
“And you’ve got what you need here. Yeah, you’ll solve it.”
While outgoing All Blacks coach Ian Foster has also been thrown forward as a potential option, Deans reckons Rugby Australia are best off looking in their own backyard for a successor.
Former Wallabies assistants Dan McKellar and Stephen Larkham remain the early frontrunners, but RA chief executive Phil Waugh insists the governing body won’t be making any hasty appointments.
“You’ve got a lot of passionate rugby people, just tap into those that care and you’ll find a way through it,” Deans said.
“Don’t worry about the past. That chapter’s closed, which is probably a good thing. Don’t dwell on it.
“Just keep moving and keep catering for players’ needs and they’ll show them for you.”
Despite the Wallabies slumping to an all-time low No.10 in the rankings after failing to progress out of the World Cup group stages for the first time last month, Deans believes good times are around the corner.
He says the British and Irish Lions touring Australia in 2025 followed by the men’s and women’s World Cups in 2027 and 2029 can serve as massive circuit breakers for the revive the code’s flagging fortunes.
That is, provided RA chief executive Phil Waugh and the board, headed up by embattled chairman Hamish McLennan, learn from their mistakes and get the governance right.
“It’s never as bad as people suggest. It’s never as good as people suggest,” Deans said, almost repeating what Waugh said on Tuesday after formally accepting Jones’ resignation.
“You’ve got a great era coming in the game here. You’ve got a lot of players who want to be part of it and that’s what you feed off.”
Deans wouldn’t be drawn on whether or not RA had erred in bringing Jones back, 16 years after being sacked as Wallabies coach in 2005, to replace Dave Rennie just eight months before a World Cup.
“Look, I’m not passing judgement on any decisions that anyone else has made. It’s obviously a chapter that’s closed, which is probably a good thing,” he said.
“I think there’s been enough about that. Elvis has left the building.”
But the 64-year-old was happy to offer some suggestions for RA and whoever they appoint as next Wallabies coach.
“You turn up for work, think about your players, think about your playing group. It’s a player game,” Deans said.
“There’s not enough people thinking about the fact that it’s a player’s game and not enough people thinking beyond their time, beyond their term.
“Leadership is looking beyond where you are in any given moment.
“You’ve got be building to go somewhere beyond where you are.”