Queensland Reds head coach Ewen McKenzie said bringing Richard Graham in as his successor is about building for the Super Rugby team’s future rather than preparing a path for him to take the Australia national team job.
The Brisbane-based Reds said yesterday that Graham would replace McKenzie next season with the incumbent head coach taking a new role as director of coaching in 2013 and then moving into a position as director of rugby the following year.
After leading the Reds to the 2011 title, McKenzie has been linked with taking over the Wallabies job from Robbie Deans, whose contract runs out at the end of next year. McKenzie, 46, said today the succession plan was about improving Queensland, adding that he hasn’t spoken to the Australian Rugby Union about replacing Deans.
“You can speculate all you want about the motivations,” McKenzie said at a televised news conference. “In the end we are trying to put in place the best model for Queensland rugby. I have had no discussions with the ARU about anything.”
The Sydney-based ARU was criticized for its decision to re- sign Deans to a two-year contract before last year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, where the Wallabies finished third after losing to the All Blacks in the semifinals.
A review into Australia’s 2011 performances has since been compiled by non-executive ARU directors Brett Robinson, Michael Hawker, John Eales and Mark Connors. Recommendations included the hiring of two new assistant coaches for Deans.
McKenzie, who has led the New South Wales Waratahs, Stade Francais and the Reds since ending a three-year spell as Wallabies assistant coach in 2003, will work closely with Graham next season before turning his attention to broader issues.
“I’m interested in growing my skill set and growing new skills on the executive level,” McKenzie added. “We’ve got a chance to look at the coaching group and how we move forward. Tell me where another Super Rugby team in Australia has had the opportunity to do that.”
Some Force players are pressuring chief executive officer Vern Reid into relieving Graham of his duties immediately rather than leaving him in the head coach’s job until the end of the season, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The Perth-based Force, who joined the southern hemisphere’s elite provincial rugby competition in 2006, are last in the five-team Australian Conference, having won two and lost six of their eight games.
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