SYDNEY (AP) — Two Kiwi coaches with two vastly different approaches are likely to have diverging career paths after the British and Irish Lions' crushing victory over Australia in the series-deciding test.
Warren Gatland wrote his name into Lions folklore on Saturday night, guiding the combined squad from the 'Home unions' to its first series victory since 1997, taking some selection gambles that caused outrage and an uproar in parts of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales but ultimately produced the winning combination.
Robbie Deans could soon be writing job applications after his Wallabies were outmuscled and outplayed in the third test in a 41-16 defeat in Sydney. His persistence with James O'Connor at flyhalf in the face of consistent criticism of the young utility back's credentials and performance in the key role could prove very costly.
Reports that the Australian Rugby Union was considering new candidates for the Wallabies coaching job were circulating well before the deciding match. Ewen McKenzie, the Queensland Reds director of coaching and a former World Cup-winning prop, and Jake White, who has taken charge of the ACT Brumbies and guided South Africa to the World Cup title in 2007, are the two names mentioned most when it comes to possible replacements for the 53-year-old Deans.
The ex-All Blacks fullback couldn't say for sure that he'd reach the end of his contract with Australia, which is due to run until the end of 2013.
"Those decisions will be made by others," said Deans, who became the first foreign head coach of the Wallabies when he was appointed in 2008. "You don't presume anything in this industry ... who knows?"
His reign has included shocking test defeats to Samoa and Scotland, a first ever World Cup loss to Ireland in the group stages in 2011, and now the lopsided loss to the Lions.
Along the way, Deans has attracted vocal critics, including high-profile players and coaches.
But Wallabies captain James Horwill stood by Deans in the aftermath of the defeat, when Australia conceded more points than ever before in a test match against the Lions.
"Robbie's the coach, he's contracted and he's the coach," Horwill said. "He's a great coach. Now's not the time, five minutes after a game, to talk about coaching positions."
But not even the winners are grinners, just yet.
The 49-year-old Gatland was confronted by his critics before the third test after dropping veteran Irish center Brian O'Driscoll, a former captain and four-times Lions tourist, and favoring 10 Welsh players from his Six Nations-winning squad in the starting XV for the deciding third test.
"I was absolutely shocked at the vitriolic terms of the criticism," Gatland said. "People are entitled to their opinions and sometimes you have to make tough calls and we made a tough call.
"We knew when we sat down on Tuesday night, and we were going to name the team, that there was going to be some fallout from that. It's been a tough 72 hours, but I'm really pleased for the players in terms of finishing off what was a fantastic series and a hard-fought series as well."
Gatland, who played 17 times for New Zealand without winning a test cap, has been Wales coach since 2007 and has had to deal with criticism of his selections in the past. But nothing prepared him for the criticism in the week after the 16-15 second test loss in Melbourne which sent the series to a decider.
"I haven't taken a lot of pleasure out of tonight in terms of feeling vindicated," Gatland said. "I haven't enjoyed the last 72 hours, it's been pretty tough personally, and maybe in a week or two I might get some pleasure out of tonight. But at the moment there hasn't been a lot of pleasure out of feeling vindicated at the amount of criticism directed at me personally."
Gatland said it was the right and duty of coaches to make the "tough calls" for the benefit of their teams.
"I've always stuck to my guns and said sometimes you have to make tough calls," he said. "Sometimes that's why you are put in a position to put your (reputation) on the line, sometimes you have to be prepared to do that."