International Rugby
McKenzie plays down Ireland link
ESPN Staff
March 22, 2013
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie offers some instruction, Reds v Blues, Super Rugby semi-final, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia, July 2, 2011
Ewen McKenzie has announced his intention to quit the Reds at the end of the current Super Rugby season © Getty Images

Reds boss Ewen McKenzie has attempted to play down reports suggesting he is poised to replace Declan Kidney as Ireland coach.

McKenzie announced earlier this week that he would be leaving the Queensland-based Super Rugby franchise in order to further his hopes of coaching at international level and was subsequently linked with the Ireland job with Kidney under increasing pressure following a dismal Six Nations campaign and out of contract at the end of a season that has seen his side slump to an all-time low in the world rankings.

"I always say timing is everything but sometimes it won't matter what the timing is as interpretations are always varied," McKenzie wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald. "For example, the connection of Ireland losing on the weekend and my announcement were purely coincidence. I didn't wake up on Sunday and see Ireland lose only to think I should hold a press conference to capitalise on that. Nor did Ireland ring me up and offer me a job when as far as they and the world knew, I already had one."

McKenzie, who steered the Reds to the 2011 Super Rugby title, has long been linked with the Australia coaching job having previously served as assistant coach under Eddie Jones and been offered the job in 2006 only to have turned it down because he didn't believe he was qualified to take on such a role.

However, current Wallabies boss Robbie Deans is contracted to the end of the year and with the Australian Rugby Union recently confirming he will be in charge of their tour of Europe in November only a calamitous series against the British & Irish Lions later this year is likely to prompt a premature end to that working relationship.

As a result, McKenzie may be tempted by an offer to return to the northern hemisphere, where he spent a year in charge of French side Stade Francais, when he parts company with the Reds in July or August should they reach the Super Rugby title decider. Although, Waratahs coach Michael Chieka is among those to have expressed concern that McKenzie may be lost to Australian rugby.

"The other obvious connection was to the Wallabies job," wrote McKenzie. "It is important that I reiterate that while I have ambitions to coach my country at the highest level, the announcement was by no means associated with applying added pressure to the process.

"People love a conspiracy. But if it was a conspiracy theory, it has been running for at least three years and across two ARU regimes. Watergate looks like small bikkies by comparison. The reality is, the Wallaby coaching position is all about timing. You have to be the best person when they actually want to appoint someone and until it's a vacant position, it's not available."

An under-strength Ireland side, stripped of those players selected for the Lions tour to Australia, are set to tackle the USA and Canada in the summer with reports suggesting assistant coach Les Kiss could be put in temporary charge of the side until McKenzie, with whom he worked with at the Waratahs, is free to take the team's reins.

However, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt is the bookmakers' favourite to step up to the national side should Kidney, as expected, be shown the exit. Brumbies coach and former South Africa boss Jake White, another to have been linked with the Wallabies, is also reportedly in the running as is current Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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