ROBBIE Dean's position as coach of the Wallabies is under considerable pressure because of his poor winning percentage, but there is a range of equally pressing issues facing the Australian Rugby Union.
One of those is player payments, which might be costing the game more than it can afford at the expense of junior development.
That's the view of former national coach John Connelly, who said yesterday that while it would be unusual for the union to sack a coach mid-season, comments by another former coach Alan Jones and former Test players Andrew Slack and Nick Farr-Jones after Australia's pathetic loss to the All Blacks on Saturday night indicated that pressure was mounting.
Following the latest loss to the All Blacks the Australian Rugby Union was quick to pledge its continued support for Deans, who is contracted until the end of next year's tour by the British and Irish Lions.
Connelly said the game between Australia and South Africa in Perth on September 8 would be a watershed moment for the beleaguered coach.
He said Australia had scored only five tries in its past six games, it was held scoreless on Saturday by the All Blacks for the first time in 50 years and Dean's success record was not good enough for fans.
Deans, a New Zealander, has managed only three victories from 17 clashes with the All Blacks since he took control of the Australian team. But Connolly said a looming review of the game here would need to look at more than the coach's performance.
"There was no lack of effort on Saturday night," he said.
"But how we played the game needs to be questioned."
Connolly said Australian Rugby Union lacked a national competition, and an under-20 development division like the NRL's national under-20 competition.
He said it also lacked the successful development programs run by the AFL and NRL.
He said Australian rugby was exposed for depth in the Super Rugby competition but had always been able to cobble together a great Test 15.
That was no longer the case. And with New Zealand and South Africa both running wonderful under-20 academy structures to develop talent, Australia's weaknesses would continue to be exposed until it addressed its depth issues.
"Our top players are arguably paid too much,'' Connolly said yesterday.
In comparison, New Zealand balanced its player payments against the need to fund and maintain the layers of structure that kept delivering quality players.
"They don't compromise their junior programs to retain top players,'' he said.
"They back their junior programs to develop new players.''
Connolly said any review by Australian Rugby, as well as a review of the coach's performance, must include player payments, selection, development structures, the fact Deans did not get the assistant coaches he wanted and the need for a national youth competition.