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Deans, Gatland look ahead as their World Cups end

Updated: October 21, 2011, 07:26

AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Robbie Deans and Warren Gatland turned to face new challenges in their international coaching careers after Friday's bronze medal match at the Rugby World Cup, Deans in charge of the third-best team in the tournament and Gatland of the fourth.

Deans' Australians won the third-place playoff 21-18 over Wales, ending promising campaigns for both teams that came up short of a final which will now be contested on Sunday by New Zealand and France.

Both Deans and Gatland signed contract extensions with their adoptive nations before the World Cup began: Deans until 2013 in Australia and Gatland until 2015 with Wales. As coaches of teams packed with young talent they now begin the process of preparing for the next World Cup.

Australia lost to Ireland in pool play, narrowly beat South Africa in the quarterfinals and lost 20-6 to the All Blacks in the semifinals, failing to live up to its standing as the No. 2-ranked nation in world rugby after New Zealand.

New Zealand-born Deans now has a 57 percent win-loss record in test matches, the worst by an Australian coach in the professional era.

Had Australia lost to Wales on Friday, he would have been the first Wallabies coach to lose three matches at the same World Cup.

Wales, in contrast, exceeded expectations but still ended the tournament disappointed at having failed to reach the final. After losing its opening match by a point to 2007 World Cup champion South Africa, Wales qualified second from the tournament's toughest pool, then upset Ireland in the quarterfinals before losing 9-8 to France in the semis after being reduced to 14 men.

Wales were one of the form teams of the early rounds and throughout the tournament revealed a fund of young and unsung players who will be the raw material from which Gatland builds his 2015 campaign. The 23-year-old captain and flanker Sam Warburton was one of the stars of the tournament, providing Wales a leader who will likely guide them through 2015.

He built an impressive reputation through the tournament which was only slightly tarnished by his sending off and subsequent three-week suspension for a dangerous tip tackle on French winger Vincent Clerc in the semifinals.

Wales' fund of young stars also includes the 20-year-old backrower Toby Faletau, the 24-year-old flyhalf Rhys Priestland, the 22-year-old fullback Leigh Halfpenny and the giant, 19-year-old winger George North.

Gatland showed an aptitude at the World Cup to mould those players into a cohesive team, which may be one of the world's best by 2015.

"The players will have learnt a massive amount from this tournament,'' he said. "They've been through a lot, the youngsters have obviously learnt and they'll definitely be stronger for these experiences.

"We're disappointed but we've got to take the positives from the tournament, from what we've done and the way we've progressed as a team.''

Australia's stocks are almost as large, including the talented but erratic flyhalf Quade Cooper whose form suffered at the tournament in the face of the hostility of Kiwi fans. Deans can build a team around captain James Horwill, still only 26, the scrumhalf Will Genia, 23, outstanding flanker David Pocock, 23, lock Rob Simmons, 22, wingers Digby Ioane, 26, and James O'Connor, 21.

"There will be elements (in Australia) who will be frustrated as we are that we didn't achieve more,'' Deans said. "Our sentiments are identical.

"I'm very proud of the way these guys stuck at it, particularly this week and I think they showed not only what it meant to them but also showed that there is a lot of valuable substance in this group that we will see more of over the next few years.''

Deans' future with Australia beyond 2013, which includes a tour by the British and Irish Lions, is uncertain. The current Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill, who has been a strong Deans supporter, steps down in 2013 and will not be party to any decision on his reappointment.

"That won't be my call,'' O'Neill said this week. "My contract is up at the end of 2013 and it will not be a decision that involves me.

"I'll be preparing to ride off, much to the relief of some people, and it would not be appropriate for me to be involved in that.''

Strong pressure already exists on the ARU to find a place in the current Wallabies coaching structure for Ewen McKenzie, who guided the Queensland Reds to the Super 15 title this season, two season after they finished 12th in the Super 14.

Some former Wallabies, among them David Campese and Mark Ella, have publicly backed McKenzie to replace Deans as head coach.

"We needed players with experience but Deans is a coach that wants to go with all these young guys,'' Ella said in a radio interview. "That's been a problem all along. It's great to have young and exciting players but you need to have experience in the team somewhere.

"We just weren't good enough - that's the simple fact. The ARU will protect Robbie and make all the excuses but nothing much will change.''

Both Deans and Gatland have been tipped as future coaches of their native New Zealand but both have said they will fulfull their contract obligations to their current teams.

"It's flattering, nice to be touted as doing that,'' Gatland said. "I'll be honest - at some stage of your rugby career as a Kiwi you would like to come home and do a bit of coaching here. But I have made that commitment to Wales.''

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