Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has defended a controversial training camp ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour, saying the tourists have a “huge advantage” in the three-Test series.
Deans yesterday made no apologies for putting a 25-man squad into an extended three-week camp and making them off-limits to their Super Rugby franchises in the build-up to the June 22 first Test in Brisbane.
While the Wallabies are to come together on June 2, the Lions — drawn from the four home nations England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland — will play three matches together in that time on their tour, which happens every four years.
Deans said he had hoped to have one warm-up match during the camp, like Rod Macqueen’s 2001 team who played the New Zealand Maori before a 2-1 series win against the Lions.
However, it will not happen and he will make do with high-contact opposed sessions in training.
Deans, facing his biggest series as Wallabies coach, rated Australia’s preparation as the “shortest in the history of the game for a Lions series.”
“You go back to 2001 and the Wallabies had similar time [to prepare], but with a [warm-up] game, so it was obviously a more complete prep, and they got spanked in the first Test,” Deans told reporters.
“Rod Macqueen, who spoke with us recently, quite openly conceded that the preparation wasn’t adequate, and he’s genuinely concerned by what we’re confronted with,” he added. “There’s no doubt the Lions will have a huge advantage in terms of entering the series.”
Macqueen said he spoke to Australia’s extended 49-man squad at a logistics camp in January about the intensity and magnitude of the series against the Lions, and underlined the ferocity of the 29-13 opening loss at Brisbane’s Gabba in 2001.
The NSW Waratahs, the ACT Brumbies, the Melbourne Rebels and the Queensland Reds all wanted to have their star players available for Super 15 matches from June 7 to June 9.