Wanted: Coach for Wallabies

JOB ON THE LINE: John Connolly believes Wallabies coach Robbie Deans could face the axe if Australia don’t perform well against the British and Irish Lions.
JOB ON THE LINE: John Connolly believes Wallabies coach Robbie Deans could face the axe if Australia don’t perform well against the British and Irish Lions. GETTY IMAGES

EX-NATIONAL coach John Connolly says the Wallabies' coaching job is "up for grabs" in a winter "shootout" between three men.

Connolly believes the future of current Wallabies mentor Robbie Deans hangs on Australia's performance against the British and Irish Lions - with a heavy defeat likely to hasten his demise.

He said Queensland coaching director Ewen McKenzie and Brumbies coach Jake White were his chief rivals.

"If Robbie beats the Lions, he will be a very strong chance to be reappointed," he said.

"If by chance we got annihilated by the Lions, then they probably would review it sooner.

"The Australian coach is up for grabs the next month."

If Australia - which arrives on the Sunshine Coast today for a week-long camp - performs solidly against the Lions, Connolly believes the All Black great's contract will not be reviewed until after the Super Rugby season in early August and before the Wallabies' spring European tour.

Connolly, who Deans succeeded as national coach, will not shed a tear when the Kiwi goes.

It is well-documented that the man affectionately known as Knuckles finds a New Zealander coaching the Wallabies anathema.

"Personally, I much prefer an Australian coach coaching Australia," he said.

"It grates on me that we have a foreigner coaching Australia in rugby and cricket, two of the iconic Australian sports, but that's another story."

Connolly, who has a great understanding of UK rugby after coaching Swansea in Wales and English club Bath, said Australia would struggle to duplicate its three-Test series win over the Lions in 2001, the last time they toured.

He said that Australian side had several great players, including John Eales, Tim Horan, Daniel Herbert and George Gregan, while it had a strong build-up to that series.

When the Wallabies meet the Lions in the first of three Tests at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on June 22, it will be their first match of 2013.

Connolly also harbours concerns over the potency of the home side's player combinations.

He said the "combinations advantage" Australia traditionally enjoyed over the Lions was gone.

"We know (Will) Genia will be halfback, but we're not sure who will be five-eighth, what the centre combination is going to be or even the wingers," he said.

"So that combination factor isn't as strong as it used to be, and that's a factor for us.

"I think the Lions have got a very even side … I think it will be a challenge for Australia."

Connolly would have erratic Reds No.10 Quade Cooper in Australia's 25-man squad, but understood why he was snubbed given his propensity to mix class with catastrophe.

Topics:  british and irish lions john connolly wallabies

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