With the summer tours now over, the World Cup just over a year away and the 2013 Lions tour edging closer, we’ll be taking a regular look at the state of the game in Australia – the venue of the next installment of Lions rugby.
We start with the news that Wallaby head coach Robbie Deans is not in danger of being sacked despite criticism regarding his side’s showing this summer.
Deans is currently under contract until after the 2011 World Cup but rumours have again begun circulating that the Wallabies could be about to make a change at the top.
Australia drew their two-match series with England after suffering a shock defeat in Sydney before struggling to overcome an Ireland side decimated by injuries.
England’s victory in the second Test was a major surprise given the ease with which the Wallabies had won the first encounter and the fact that the tourists hadn’t recorded a Test win of any sorts in the southern hemisphere since 2003.
And with the margin of victory over the Irish just seven points in comparison to the 38 point-thrashing the All Blacks handed out to Declan Kidney’s men a fortnight earlier, Deans is receiving plenty of flak from the Australian media.
But Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill has insisted Deans’ future is not under question despite the fact that he and ARU high performance manager David Nucifora will meet with the New Zealander on Tuesday of this week.
"It's a regular meeting, it's been in the diary since January," said O'Neill.
"Robbie and I talk four or five times a week so there's nothing remotely resembling a crisis meeting tomorrow.
"It's a mini review, we've had four Tests (and we need to discuss) how are we travelling, what's good, what's not so good, what do we need to improve and the status report on injuries.
"No one should read anything into tomorrow's meeting rather than a regular and timely review of how we're travelling.
"It'd be fair to say that the inconsistency issue is something that worries us. We've got to be capable of putting teams to the sword and that's not quite there yet. Mind you, when I list the players who are injured, they are pretty valuable and extremely valuable parts of the team."
Robbie Deans' position is not under threat
Despite being quick to dismiss reports that Deans’ reign could be brought to a premature end, O’Neill does admit that inconsistency in performance is an issue that needs to be addressed as the Wallabies prepare for the forthcoming Tri Nations, next year’s World Cup and then the 2013 Lions tour.
"It's all part of consistency,” added O’Neill.
"Whether it's mongrel or whether it's (about being) very uncompromising, it's all part of winning teams.
"If you look across the ages the really champion teams are uncompromising and sometimes they're not just satisfied with winning – they put you to the sword.
"I mean we've got a lot of young blokes and the Test match arena is new to them, but if you look at some of the great Australian, All Blacks and Springbok teams, they have some very hard men in their teams and everyone knows they're hard.
"We're not talking about bring back the biff or anything like that but it's a combination of all of the above and it's (about) being uncompromising and being consistently uncompromising.
"We're in this for the long haul and we're starting to turn things around. Super rugby was a lot better and the expectation is that 2010 should be a very good year for us, and I haven't changed that assessment.
"I think we'll do very well in the Tri-Nations. South Africa and New Zealand looked very good and they are very formidable opponents – they don't get any harder – but that's the nature of the world in which we live and let's get out there and beat them."
Australia narrowly beat Ireland in their last game before the Tri Nations
Those sentiments were echoed by Deans himself, with the former Crusaders coach stressing that, although performances haven’t lived up to his own high expectations, there is still plenty to be positive about.
Deans admits that he understands and accepts the criticism coming his way but he remains convinced that Australian rugby is heading in the right direction, especially when it comes to building strength in depth.
"We have the same frustrations and the same ambitions," said Deans.
"Over the year, we've let some results go that obviously were there for the taking.
"The underlying consistency is coming under a circumstance that has been pretty challenging, to be honest, which would suggest we're just under the brow," Deans added in relation to a substantial injury list that has included his entire first-choice front row and a number of other star players.
"If you look at reality, we've also achieved something with a group that have no background.
"There were only four of the starting 15 in Perth that were in the equivalent starting 15 at the end of last year.
"We're still not happy, we're not suggesting we are. But that's a fact."
The story so far: how the Wallabies have fared so far this summer
Australia 49 Fiji 3 – Canberra, June 5
Australia 27 England 17 – Perth, June 12
Australia 20 England 21 – Sydney, June 19
Australia 22 Ireland 15 – Brisbane, June 26
What’s next: Australia in the Tri Nations
Australia vs South Africa – Brisbane, July 24
Australia vs New Zealand – Melbourne, July 31
New Zealand vs Australia – Christchurch, August 7
South Africa vs Australia – Pretoria, August 28
South Africa vs Australia – Bloemfontein, September 4
Australia vs New Zealand – Sydney, September 11