Robbie Deans predicts 2023 will be best Rugby World Cup ever

June 1, 2022 GMT
FILE - Australian Rugby Union head coach Robbie Deans walks past the Tom Richards Cup before a press conference in Sydney, May 19, 2013. Former All Blacks fullback and Wallabies head coach, Deans will attempt on Sunday, May 28, 2022, to win his fifth title as coach of the Wild Knights in the final of Japan League One, the bigger and better successor to the former Japan Top League. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)
FILE - Australian Rugby Union head coach Robbie Deans walks past the Tom Richards Cup before a press conference in Sydney, May 19, 2013. Former All Blacks fullback and Wallabies head coach, Deans will attempt on Sunday, May 28, 2022, to win his fifth title as coach of the Wild Knights in the final of Japan League One, the bigger and better successor to the former Japan Top League. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)
FILE - Australian Rugby Union head coach Robbie Deans walks past the Tom Richards Cup before a press conference in Sydney, May 19, 2013. Former All Blacks fullback and Wallabies head coach, Deans will attempt on Sunday, May 28, 2022, to win his fifth title as coach of the Wild Knights in the final of Japan League One, the bigger and better successor to the former Japan Top League. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)
FILE - Australian Rugby Union head coach Robbie Deans walks past the Tom Richards Cup before a press conference in Sydney, May 19, 2013. Former All Blacks fullback and Wallabies head coach, Deans will attempt on Sunday, May 28, 2022, to win his fifth title as coach of the Wild Knights in the final of Japan League One, the bigger and better successor to the former Japan Top League. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)
FILE - Australian Rugby Union head coach Robbie Deans walks past the Tom Richards Cup before a press conference in Sydney, May 19, 2013. Former All Blacks fullback and Wallabies head coach, Deans will attempt on Sunday, May 28, 2022, to win his fifth title as coach of the Wild Knights in the final of Japan League One, the bigger and better successor to the former Japan Top League. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Former Wallabies and All Blacks coach Robbie Deans believes the Rugby World Cup in France next year will be the best ever.

There’ll be more teams capable of winning the title than at any previous tournament, he said, adding that the standard of rugby being played around the World is higher and more teams are competitive now than ever before.

“It’s going to be a great World Cup,” Deans told reporters from Tokyo. “It’s going to be the best ever with more sides in it that can win it. And any team that goes three in a row, from quarters to final and wins it, will have earned it.”

On Sunday Deans coached the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights to victory in the Japan Rugby League One final. It was his fifth title in Japan, matching the five he won in Super Rugby with the Christchurch, New Zealand-based Crusaders. He was an assistant coach of the New Zealand All Blacks at the 2003 World Cup and coached Australia at the 2011 World Cup.

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Deans sees rugby as being in something of a golden age and doesn’t subscribe to the view it provides less of a spectacle now than it once did.

“If we take off our rose-tinted spectacles about the past and look at the product that’s being produced now, it’s never been better,” he said.

He said the Champions Cup final between French club La Rochelle and Irish powerhouse Leinster, and even Japan’s League One final, were good examples.

“It wasn’t perfection in terms of execution but that was the intensity of the game and the game ebbed and flowed,” he said. “It had everything that makes rugby great.

“There is no set way it’s supposed to be played and the moment it becomes that people will turn it off because they come for that drama, they come for that theatre and I think if you go back and look at international rugby it was never as appealing and as fast and skilful as it is now.”

Deans believes mid-year test series between northern and southern hemisphere teams will provide a taste of what likely will be on offer at the World Cup. England will face a challenge in Australia and Ireland and New Zealand will play out a “fascinating” three-test series.

“No Australian team is going to roll over to England in Australia, so it’s going to be good,” he said. New Zealand’s home series against Ireland, he added, “will be a ripper.”

Deans says since rugby became professional in 1995 the All Blacks have been more dominant than anyone could have expected. But that dominance has slipped away a little as other teams have learned to blunt the All Blacks’ attacking game while lifting their own games.

The standard of rugby in the northern hemisphere has risen, matching or even exceeding the southern hemisphere where the loss of South African teams from Super Rugby has had an impact on standards. Northern hemisphere teams also have come to grips with the All Blacks style of play and learned to counter it.

“New Zealand, I think, approached the last World Cup with the thought that speed was going to be their point of difference but ultimately were blunted,” he said. “You can’t be one-dimensional now.”

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Northern hemisphere teams “are lifting,” Deans said. “They’ve got a better handle on the All Blacks. The All Blacks have led the pack for a long time so they’ve been picked over and teams have broken down their game, are making their life more difficult and are more consistently competitive.”

But, Deans said, the All Blacks have the ability to re-invent themselves as they have often in the past.

“They’ll be looking at finding a point of difference, a point of advantage and they’re good at that,” he said. “What is evident in the professional game is that the quality of the game is lifting internationally. You can look an any team and they can all attack.

“There is some great attacking rugby and whoever wins the World Cup will have to play positively.”

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