'Ewen McKenzie will not coach Australia'
February 26, 2013
Ewen McKenzie faces high-ranking opposition to his Wallabies credentials © Getty Images
Ewen McKenzie has no chance of becoming the next Wallabies coach under the new Australian Rugby Union (ARU) regime. A senior and influential ARU official has made it widely known that he does not want McKenzie as Test coach when the time comes to find a replacement for Robbie Deans.
Several high-ranking sources have told ESPN that the ARU official, who will play a major role in determining who will be the next Wallabies coach, recently told colleagues: "As long as my backside is pointing to the ground, Ewen McKenzie will not coach Australia. You cannot have a front-row forward in charge of the Wallabies because they know nothing about backline play."
This official has considerable support at ARU board level.
Deans' head coaching position is currently not under threat, but that will change if the Wallabies lose to the British & Irish Lions and have another dismal Bledisloe Cup series this year. The Wallabies have struggled constantly during Deans' flawed six-year reign, and another poor season will put the pressure directly on the ARU to do something about it.
McKenzie has been Deans' obvious successor for some time, especially after he masterminded the Queensland's Super Rugby title campaign in 2011. McKenzie is widely admired as a coach, respected highly by his players and renowned for his meticulous approach to all facets of the game.
Numerous players, such as Wallabies halfback Will Genia and five-eighth Quade Cooper, are huge fans of McKenzie, believing that he provides them with the freedom to be adventurous, especially out wide. McKenzie's rise to the Wallabies coaching ranks would be widely applauded by many key Australian players.
And despite what this ARU powerbroker thinks, numerous Reds players can vouch for the fact that McKenzie does know quite a lot about backline play, and embraces innovative attacking football. How the Reds were so spectacular and innovative in their successful pursuit of the 2011 Super title is clear proof of that.
The McKenzie fan club pushes far past the Queensland borders as he also has many supporters in Sydney, who are still miffed over the unsavoury way he was replaced as New South Wales Waratahs coach for Chris Hickey in 2008.
This surprising anti-McKenzie feeling at the ARU will do nothing to heal the fractured relationship between the national body and the Queensland Rugby Union (QRU). It is known that numerous key Queensland officials were unimpressed with the recent appointment of the Sydney-based Bill Pulver as the ARU chief executive, taking over from John O'Neill. Many in Brisbane believed QRU chief executive Jim Carmichael was the ideal man to be in charge of the ARU when O'Neill left late last year.
It is understood the ill-feeling has not been helped by an ARU powerbroker recently meeting Brisbane club officials without the QRU being informed. At state level, it is regarded as a cardinal sin if an ARU official goes to the constituents "behind the state bodies' back".
The ARU has recently been accused of becoming too Sydney centric and a "networker's club". It is also a time of flux at ARU headquarters at St Leonards. The head of the ARU's High Performance Unit, David Nucifora, left shortly after O'Neill's departure. Several other key ARU officials are also scheduled to depart, with staff told on Monday night that deputy CEO Matt Carroll would be leaving at the end of March. This follows the ARU deciding it no longer required a deputy. Scrum.com has been told that consultants have also been appointed to undertake a dramatic cost-cutting review at the ARU .
Even Waratahs Rugby chief executive Jason Allen's name has been linked to a commercial sponsorship and management role at the ARU, while former NSW Rugby Union managing director Jim L'Estrange is expected to return shortly as the chief executive of an Australian Super Rugby franchise.
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