Rugby - Lions squad holds no surprises for Deans

Australia coach Robbie Deans was unsurprised by the British and Irish Lions squad selection and expects the tourists to play to traditional northern hemisphere strengths of power and tactical kicking in three Tests that will give his players the "ultimate rugby experience".

Reuters
Rugby - Factbox: Robbie Deans
.

View photo

Australia coach Robbie Deans walks past a Qantas Boeing 737 plane with the official logo of the 2013 British and Irish Lions rugby team tour painted on its side at Sydney airport (Reuters)

In return, Deans promised a distinct gameplan for his Wallabies and expects to be able to call on 110-cap flanker George Smith as well as troubled back Kurtley Beale to take on the tourists in the series in June and July.

New Zealander Deans also looks likely to employ the power and pace of code-hopping full-back Israel Folau after describing the former rugby league international as a potential "legend" in union.

As for the Lions, Deans said he had expected compatriot Warren Gatland to pick a hefty core of Welshmen in his squad -there were 15 named - particularly after their 30-3 hammering of England in the last match of the Six Nations.

"I guess when you name a squad of that size, there's never going to be too many surprises," Deans said at the Sydney Football Stadium.

"They've gone back to what they know, which is no great surprise.

"They'll play to their strengths, it'll be very much gain-line orientated and if they get past that they might try to play a bit, but I don't think they'll play a lot behind it."

Deans said he did not think the selection of just two specialist fly-halves in Jonny Sexton and Owen Farrell was a risk and expected Jonny Wilkinson to be on the first flight to Australia should either suffer an injury.

"They know they've got a great backstop ready to go," he said of England's 2003 World Cup hero.

The versatile Beale, who ended last year as Wallabies fly-half, returned to practice with the Melbourne Rebels this week after being suspended indefinitely for punching two team-mates in late March.

"He's very good," said Deans. "I think the light's come on for him, so to speak. I spoke to him last night, he's going through some routines dealing with the history and by all accounts it's going well.

"The critical thing is Kurtley dealing with life, not whether he plays a Test match or not. If he deals with that, he'll deal with (playing) easily, what he does in-game he does instinctively."

Folau scored a fine individual try for the New South Wales Waratahs against South Africa's Bulls last weekend and Deans said the Australian Rugby Union were desperate to keep him in the 15-man game.

"Israel does some things that no one else can do," he said.

"It's amazing what he can do after just 10 games. Whatever happens let's hope he sticks around because he'll become an absolute legend of the game."

Openside flanker Smith has already been afforded that status and played a key role in Australia's 2-1 series victory over the Lions in 2001.

Deans said negotiations with his Japanese club over Smith's availability were continuing.

Asked after the news conference how talks were going, Deans whipped out his mobile phone and showed a small group of reporters a text he had just received saying there were just a few small details to be tidied up.

"I spoke to him and he's keen," said Deans. "He's just class and he's just built for it. He's incredibly resilient and he never backs off the physical confrontation."

That will be a key factor in a series Deans expects to be played with a passion few of his players have experienced before as evidenced, he thought, by the Wales-England match which ended the Six Nations.

"It was brutal and it was relentless for 80 minutes," he said.

"It will be a context that our blokes have never experienced. Some of our players have experienced World Cup rugby, but I tell you the ante goes up even further.

"This is the ultimate rugby experience."

Deans will name the first 25 players in his squad on May 19, adding six more on June 11. The Lions play the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1 and arrive in Australia the following day.

View comments (0)