'McKenzie still in the Wallabies mix'
February 28, 2013
Ewen McKenzie faces high-ranking opposition to his Wallabies credentials © Getty Images
Australian Rugby Union chief executive Bill Pulver has rubbished the suggestion that Reds coach Ewen McKenzie has no chance of being the Wallabies' next coach.
ESPN's Greg Growden reported earlier this week that a 'senior and influential' figure has made it widely known he does not want a former McKenzie to succeed current Wallabies boss Robbie Deans. The unnamed ARU official, who will play a key role in the selection process, does not believe McKenzie, a former prop who won 51 Test caps for Australia, has the required skillset for the job.
It is understood he 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."
However, Pulver has dismissed the report and insists McKenzie's knowledge and record make him a leading candidate to take on the Wallabies post. "I have never heard anyone either inside the ARU executive or the ARU board make that comment," Pulver told The Australian. "That doesn't mean the comment wasn't made, by the way, it's just that I have never heard that comment. If anyone did make that comment, my view would be that it is ill-informed, inappropriate, simply untrue and also insensitive.
"Ewen McKenzie has done a superb job for coaching and rugby in general in Australia for I don't know how long, 10, 20 years, and deserves to be treated better than that. He has also been responsible for coaching some of the best creative, running rugby I have ever seen. Ewen is right up there on a very short list of candidates to be the next Wallabies coach."
Deans is contracted until the end of this year but has expressed his desire to continue coaching the Wallabies through to the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England. Pulver has revealed that McKenzie has also made it clear he would like to take charge of the national side while his Brumbies counterpart and former South Africa coach Jake White is another known to covet the role.
McKenzie has brushed off the criticism and vowed to continue to prove himself a worthy candidate with his work at the Reds. "Obviously someone doesn't like me, but you find that when you travel around," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "It's a bit like politics - you can't get everyone to like you. All I can do is rely on where I'm up to as a coach."
He added: "I don't worry about what I can and can't do from a coaching point of view. I've been around long enough. If you read the quotes, you'll work out the depth of intelligence that came with that comment."