"Hasn't had the scrutiny that he's about to" - Robbie Deans warns new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson of pressure ahead of England Tests - Ruck

“Hasn’t had the scrutiny that he’s about to” – Robbie Deans warns new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson of pressure ahead of England Tests

There are few jobs which carry more pressure in the world of rugby union, than that of being the New Zealand men’s head coach. The nation expects to see the All Blacks win every time they run out at their spiritual home of Eden Park, and newly appointed head coach Scott Robertson is set to take command of his side for the first time next week.

Having completed the first leg of their Summer Series with a win over Eddie Jones’ Japan, England travel down to the land of the All Blacks this week to begin their preparations for their two matches with Scott Robertson’s new side. Former Australia head coach Robbie Deans has warned Robertson about the incoming pressure, that comes with taking charge of a national side. Deans believes that Robertson is yet to experience the levels of scrutiny that comes attached to the All Blacks head coach role.

“It’s a good appointment, he deserves it. He’s earned the right. New Zealand needs his authenticity. They need an injection. He’s the bloke to do it. It’s not going to be plain sailing. It’s going to be hard, his heart rate is probably going up right now.

“But that’s great, It’ll be good for the game, good for interest, as a coach, he’s good. Saying that, he’s creative, he finds way, through it and he doesn’t dwell. He probably hasn’t had the scrutiny that he’s about to have.

“If he drops the game early, we all know how New Zealand can react. But he’s also resilient. He’s tough. He had a long successful playing career in a tough position, overcame injuries. So he understands the arena. He’ll be very excited.”

Known as ‘Razor’ by those across Christchurch, Robertson’s cutting edge at the helm of the Crusaders reaped an abundance of rewards, in the form of seven consecutive Super Rugby titles. Robertson’s men in black and red dominated Super Rugby from 2017 to 2023, with the era coming to an end following his appointment to the head of the All Blacks.

“He draws the best out of people.” Deans added. “Every team needs it, you need to maximise and not minimise. He’ll do that, he’s good at engagement and helping teams to engage. Ultimately, that’s what comes out in the wash when it gets difficult.”

Robertson’s departure sparked a low point for the Crusaders, as they finished ninth in the table and failed to qualify for the Super Rugby play-offs. The title was claimed by their New Zealand rivals the Blues, who lifted the silverware this past weekend. The Crusaders also lost their talisman Richie Mo’unga, veteran captain Sam Whitelock and explosive wing Leicester Fainga’anuku as the trio of All Blacks departed New Zealand following the Rugby World Cup Final defeat to the Springboks.

Richie Mo’unga of New Zealand runs forward with the ball during the Test Match between New Zealand and South Africa at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on August 25th 2023. – PHOTO: George Beck/PPAUK

Add in an ever-growing injury list, that included the likes of superstar fullback Will Jordan and breakout halfback Fergus Burke, and it was a truly turbulent tenure for the most successful Super Rugby side. Deans recently had the opportunity to coach Burke amongst his Barbarians contingency, as the fly half orchestrated the win over Fiji last weekend at Twickenham. Burke has recently signed for Saracens and will head up Mark McCall’s men to replace Owen Farrell for the 2024/25 Premiership season.

There is plenty of excitement around Burke, as the English and Scottish eligible halfback could well be on his way to either Steve Borthwick or Gregor Townsend’s squads in the not so distant future. Deans discussed how he has been impressed by the 24-year-old, and believes that he is an excellent signing for Saracens.

“He’s a very good player, I think that’s a good recruit. Mark (McCall) runs a good program, he’s no slug. He’s been part of the Crusaders recent performances. If he’d been there from the start of the year, they’d probably win (Super Rugby). They would have beaten Auckland if he’d played.

“But the point is, they (Crusaders) werent too far away from qualifying, if they qualified, I think they’ve probably would have gone the distance. But you don’t need to open that door!”

Deans recently completed a successful week at the helm of the Barbarians, as the famous invitational side defeated the Flying Fijians at Twickenham. It was certainly an enjoyable week for Deans as he had the opportunity to bring together an assorted group of players, which included seven England capped internationals including Danny Care, Kyle Sinckler, Jonny May and Ben Youngs.

But for Deans it was the All Blacks legend and budding hopefuls whom he coached, that really made the week a memorable won. As a player, Deans achieved five caps for the All Blacks, and admired being in the presence of the nation’s most capped player Sam Whitelock, whom he named as Barbarians captain for his final ever match. Whitelock packed down the engine room with 21-year-old All Blacks prospect Fabien Holland, with the two generations partnering up under Dean’s guidance.

“In terms of this week, the boys have been great. The last couple of players, the Racing 92 lads Gael Fickou and Cameron Woki, only arrived late last night. So they’ve had the French final, they’re all good players. That’s the point, we’ve got a couple of young ones, but they’re good players that you’ll see more of in the future.

“The young (Fabien) Holland, he’s eligible for New Zealand next year, 21 years of age. He’s got the opportunity to potentially to do what Sam Whitelock’s done, started at 21 years of age and we all know how his career is unprecedented. This is a great way for him to finish up.

“Maybe (Whitelock won’t retire), I don’t know what he told you, but he certainly celebrated this last trial in French rugby (for Pau) it looked like it was his last try for him. Who knows with these guys, you never know until they call time. It’s a tough thing to do, to call time on your playing career.”