By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY: Wallabies coach Robbie Deans this morning said that Panasonic’s new sponsorship deal would improve the team’s performance, as the company provides the team with the latest technology. Speaking at the sponsorship announcement in Manly, ARU managing director and CEO John O’Neill spoke highly of the deal, which sees the electronics brand maintain their alliance with rugby union until 2011.

“[This is] a very valuable partnership for Australian rugby. This is another vote of confidence in the direction of the game. [It is a] sign that Australian rugby’s fortunes are regarded well by an esteemed company like Panasonic.

O’Neil then spoke about how the partnership provides a practical and tangible benefit to the Wallabies, who are looking to improve after a disastrous 2007 World Cup campaign.

“In an age when technology plays such a vital role in sport, the audio visual equipment that Panasonic can provide to Robbie Deans and his coaching staff is the best that we can possibly have,” said O’Neill.

Panasonic Australia managing director Steve Rust was also keen to highlight the brand’s active role in the partnership. “We’re looking forward to working with Robbie Deans and his people and working with our equipment to help the Wallabies prepare for the next World Cup. Over the next four years, we’ll be working very closely in association with them,” said Rust.

Importantly for Panasonic, Robbie Deans is also keen on this partnership. “We do use a lot of technology, it’s a critical part of the game, more and more so the case, and obviously Panasonic are leading edge so in this relationship they’re a party we’ll be looking to a lot, not only to do what we do currently but to be innovative and find better ways to do things,” said Deans.

In terms of specifics, spoke with Steve Rust to find out exactly how Panasonic will be chipping in.

“We’re just sitting down with Robbie Deans now to refresh all the equipment, so we’ll be talking to him about all his requirements. It will consist of HD recorders; our new Blu-ray technology, both for recording and playback; camcorders, in full HD; and Viera, these will be big screens, plasmas,” said Rust.

Asked how this new technology will improve the standards of the Australian rugby team, Rust responded, “The technology with HD, in particular, is really ideal for the coach because they can take very accurate, moving pictures of the players play them back in slow motions, cut and edit, and get the edge on their competitors.”

Rust also spoke about the benefits to Panasonic from this arrangement. “It’s a national game that’s played internationally. When the Wallabies are playing an international, even if you’re not a follower of the code, you are aware that the game is being played. Tapping into that element of the Australian psyche is important in forming this partnership,” said Rust.

The Wallabies’ first match of the international season is against Ireland on 14 June.

ARU managing director and CEO John O’Neill (left) with Panasonic Australia managing director Steve Rust.