Robbie Deans has been confirmed as Wallabies coach until the 2011 World Cup, with Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill boldly declaring the struggling code had turned the corner after confronting its demons.
Last year wasn't kind to rugby, with Australia winning just six of 14 tests, no Australian team making the Super finals and concerns over declining attendances and television ratings.
There was speculation highly-regarded New Zealander Deans might struggle to retain his position after an indifferent year.
However, O'Neill revealed the ARU board had guaranteed his tenure through to the next World Cup after listening to a review of 2009 by Deans and the ARU's high performance manager David Nucifora.
"The board were very comfortable and confirmed Robbie in his position through to the World Cup in 2011," O'Neill said at the Wallabies jersey launch.
O'Neill said there would be no changes to Deans' assistant coaching line-up, but revealed that former Brumbies and Blues coach Nucifora would be more available and would help assistant coach Jim Williams in the lineout and breakdown areas.
With a new broadcasting rights deal which O'Neill said he was "pretty pleased with" to be announced over the next month, the ARU chief believed there was also on-field reasons to justify his belief Australian rugby had turned the corner.
He said the emergence of promising youngsters like flanker David Pocock, halfback Will Genia and inside back Quade Cooper potentially heralded "the making of another golden era".
O'Neill was also pleasantly surprised by the positive reaction of leading northern hemisphere administrators following Australia's 33-12 win over Wales in the final match of their spring tour.
"I was in Dublin for an IRB meeting and a number of northern hemisphere reps said the way we played in the first 20 to 30 minutes, we could be the team to beat at the World Cup," O'Neill said.
Although the World Cup looms next year, O'Neill said Australia's immediate objective was to win their first Tri-Nations tournament since 2001 and regain the Bledisloe Cup which was lost to New Zealand in 2003.
O'Neill was adamant he wasn't concerned about rival football codes, even though soccer stood to gain tremendous coverage this year from the World Cup.
"We are not concerned about competition, we will be cheering for the Socceroos as loudly as any other good Australian would," said the former Football Federation Australia chief executive.
"The reality is we've confronted our demons as a game.
"We were really open last year in talking about the state of the game, crowd figures, ratings et cetera.
"The response we've had from sponsors, corporate partners and broadcasters has been `that's great, that you aren't trying to hard from the truth and you've confronted it'.
"You don't want to be in the trough for too long and I think we're coming out of the trough and 2010 will be the year when we've turned the corner."
Sourced from: The New Zealand HeraldReuse content