Horwill hailed for leadership and decision-making qualities
Refusing three points and opting for attacking scrum a defining moment
“Who knows what it is that just opens up that half gap, so you’ve got to keep asking, keep probing, you’ve got to ask yourself first and hopefully, as we did in the last few minutes, build some momentum and keep the ball long enough to actually exploit what’s there. We got to that point on a couple of occasions but released the pressure ourselves, prior to that. When it came down to it and we had to, we got it done.”
Deans’s backline has three playmakers cum first receivers in O’Connor, Beale and Christian Lealiifano. “That’s what we get with this mix,” said Deans.
“We’ve got a number of blokes who’ve played across the backline. James has played everywhere essentially from 10 to 15 as has Kurtley, his first Test was on the wing, and Christian, likewise has played 10 to 15.”
“That was the first occasion they all played together, because Christian can’t remember his first outing and that doesn’t count. There’s going to be some teething problems but they worked their way through it last night and they looked much better right at the end when there was a need. Every experience they get in training followed by a game is going to contribute to their growth and that’s what we’re witnessing.” Asked if this was a mix he’ll stick with, Deans smiled again and simply said “Yes.”
The debate will rage as to whether James O’Connor can be a Test outhalf, but he remains typically blasé about it all. “There has been a lot raised about the position of myself but my mindset throughout is that it doesn’t matter, especially in this team, what number you have on your back. There’s a lot of ball players, a lot of guys playing all over the field. As you saw last night, I ran some lines out wide and it’s just wherever you find yourself. You take ownership of that position on the field. You’ll have seen Kurtley standing at 10 a few times and that’s the way we play the game, whoever’s closest to the ball takes it on.”
‘Won’t happen again’
At the beginning of the press conference, O’Connor read out a statement regarding his 4am visit to Hungry Jack’s with partner in crime Beale, saying: “We’ve spoken to Robbie and to the team and, although we didn’t break team protocol, it was a lack of judgment on our behalf. It’s not ideal preparation during a Test week and it won’t happen again. We’ll be better for it. As far as we’re concerned it’s a closed issue now.”
But for all the analysis, all the what-might-have-beens, no-one was more searingly honest than O’Connor’s counterpart Jonny Sexton. “It’s a tough one to take but if we’re honest with ourselves then we have to say we didn’t play well enough.”
And that it was.