Tougher task for Lions

Robbie Deans believes Australia's defeat to New Zealand will make the Lions' task even tougher in two years' time. [more]

Tougher task for Lions

Robbie Deans believes Australia’s defeat to New Zealand will make the Lions’ task even tougher in two years’ time.

Britain and Ireland’s elite travel head Down Under in 2013 to face a Wallaby side that Deans says is determined to learn from their semi-final exit at this year’s World Cup.

Deans saw his men beaten 20-6 by the All Blacks in Auckland on Sunday but, while the pain of that reverse remains raw, the Kiwi-born Aussie coach insists it will make his side stronger in the long run.

“There's no doubt that this whole playing group will be better for the experience they have had,” said Deans, who took charge of the Wallabies in 2008 and recently signed a contract extension to remain with the Australian Rugby Union until after the next Lions tour.

“I love what I do, I've really enjoyed working with this group of men. They are an impressive group and they've been fantastic in the way they've taken to their work.

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“They've been fantastic in the way they've committed to each other and the way they're coming to understand the responsibility and the privilege that they have.

“Obviously, we didn't finish up where we'd have liked to but not many do in their first outing.”

Australia were well beaten by their bitter rivals at Eden Park despite their Tri Nations success over the same opposition in Brisbane just a month-and-a-half ago and Deans believes he knows why the All Blacks came out on top.

High-profile failings at the game’s showpiece event ever since the inaugural tournament in 1987 have left the Kiwis with plenty of painful memories and, with so many of the current crop of All Blacks having experienced failure in previous tournaments, Graham Henry’s troops used their past hurt to keep their World Cup dream alive.

“What the All Blacks side have is a group that have suffered on many occasions,” added Deans.

“For the core of their group, the nucleus of their group, this is their third attempt and they've got that burning desire, that fire in the belly for that reason. And they've also got that mental resilience.

“We don't have that, as yet, to the same extent. That was the point of difference.”

Unfortunately for the Lions, Australia now have heartbreak as their own point of reference.

Just like the All Blacks, the Wallaby side the Lions face in 2013 will be able to draw on the pain of defeat on the big stage – an experience skipper James Horwill also believes will stand them in good stead in future years.

"When we speak about the World Cup, the pressure level rises. That was pretty evident especially in the last few games we've played," said Horwill, who led the youngest squad of all 20 teams at the tournament.

"We'll have to learn from this moving forward because World Cups are something completely different to any type of rugby I've played before.

"It's not so much the style of rugby, it's the fact that there is no time to let your foot off the throat, so to speak.

"You've always got to be prepared for any game and everything that comes at you. In that sense, it's why it's so unique because it's just so relentless."

Huge amounts of pressure and a relentless schedule under the eyes of the watching world – remind you of anything?

The World Cup may be a unique experience but a Lions tour also needs an incredible focus. Three Tests in as many weeks, with no chance for redemption for 12 years, requires a great deal of mental and physical strength.

Had the Wallabies won in New Zealand they would have returned home full of confidence but, ironically, defeat will probably stand them in better stead when it comes to their next landmark challenge.

For more information on the 2013 tour to Australia, check out www.lionstour.com

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