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Deans happy with Australia progress

Australia coach Robbie Deans believes his side will head into a World Cup year in the best shape of his tenure thanks to an arduous spring tour.

Australia won four of five Tests in Hong Kong, the UK and Europe - the disappointing loss to England at Twickenham the only blemish. More importantly, the tour saw the emergence of a host of young players who will form an important part of Australia's rugby future.

Asked if the Wallabies felt they were headed in the right direction less than year out from the World Cup in New Zealand, Deans replied: "Yes we do. It (the spring tour) was a big exercise. Seven fixtures in five weeks is an awful lot of logistics and travel but all of those challenges are good for the group."

He added: "We got a lot out of it. We wanted progression and we got that.

"Playing away and winning away is a habit we're starting to get better at."

Deans was particularly excited over the improvement of his young players, led by David Pocock, James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale.

Pocock and Beale are among the nominations for the International Rugby Board's prestigious player-of-the-year award.

"There's no doubt some of the guys who we exposed to rugby at this level for the first time (will be better for the experience)," he said.

"There are three really obvious ones, two have just been nominated for IRB player-of-the-year in Pocock and Beale. It was effectively their first full season. James O'Connor on the weekend stepped up to the goalkicking duties, but he also cleared the ball and defended with a real purpose beyond his 20 years.

"I look back two years and it's just totally different circumstances now. We've got more depth in more positions."

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