Robbie Deans has warned his Wallabies the looming Spring Tour of Europe will be no end-of-season holiday and that only the true performers will survive.
Coach Deans has wasted little time carving a reputation as a tough and ambitious task master and, unlike some of his predecessors, is not viewing the six-match tour as merely a developmental exercise.
The former All Black has made no secret he demands continued improvement and – mindful that Australia’s Spring Tourists had under-achieved in recent years – Deans placed the 34-man squad on notice today.
“We’re conscious of the history,” he said.
“I’m confident that this group will present themselves well in terms of their enthusiasm and that will be the first requirement.
“I wasn’t present obviously in the past, but I suspect that the contributing factor (to poor results) may have been the enthusiasm levels at the far end of the year.
“I don’t think that will be an issue with this group. We’ve been working hard over the last few weeks and we’ve got another week to come before we assemble.
“The indications are that they’re pretty excited about this tour.”
Since Deans took charge in June, the Wallabies have shown much improved form, going within a try of winning their first Tri-Nations title in seven years after upsetting both the All Blacks and world champion Springboks.
But the no-nonsense coach today issued a subtle warning to his troops not to rest on their laurels.
“Hopefully we’re still going up, because that’s going to be needed,” Deans said.
“And I would be very surprised if the group’s comfortable. They have an opportunity to represent their country, represent their country well and give a good indication that they want to get the opportunity to do that again in the future.”
As expected, Deans today drafted uncapped Brumbies lock Peter Kimlin into his squad in place of the injured James Horwill, who requires foot surgery.
Although the 23-year-old red-head started just one Super 14 game this season, Kimlin impressed Deans representing Australia A.
“He’s a bloke that you notice when he plays because he does have a high work rate,” Deans said.
“And he’s quite influential with what he does. Because of his athleticism, he’s able to put himself in places to contribute.
“And possibly his hair colour helps – but that’s not necessarily an advantage if you’re not doing what’s required when you get there.
“We had a second-row need obviously with James dropping out, but it didn’t necessarily mean that we had to opt for a specialist. We’ve got some versatility in the group.
“He was a bloke who was on the radar anyway, from our perspective, and it was probably inevitable that he was going to get the opportunity at some point.
“It may have come a earlier than he was anticipating, but he’s very athletically-abled player and he’s no slug either.”
The Wallabies open their tour with a Bledisloe Cup clash with the All Blacks in Hong Kong on November 1 before playing successive Saturday Tests against Italy, England, France and Wales.
The tour concludes with a match against the all-star Barbarians in London on December 3.