Australian rugby chiefs are to fire national coach Robbie Deans and replace him with Queensland’s Ewen McKenzie following the Wallabies’ series loss to the British and Irish Lions.
Deans will be sacked six months before his contract ends, as the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) seeks to rebuild after the national team’s 41-16 thrashing by the Lions in Saturday’s series-deciding third Test, the Sydney Morning Herald said yesterday. ARU chief Bill Pulver met Deans on Monday, and reports said McKenzie had beaten off competition from the ACT Brumbies’ South African coach Jake White to take over the Wallabies.
Sources said McKenzie, an Australian who is director of coaching at the Queensland Reds, would be unveiled as the new national trainer today.
McKenzie said in March that he would quit the Reds at the end of the Super Rugby season, saying he was ready to move to “the next level”.
After joining in 2009, he guided the franchise to a first Super 15 championship in 2011 in addition to back-to-back Australian conference titles. Deans, a New Zealander, has been in charge of the Wallabies for five years and is contracted until the end of the year. But the ARU is reportedly keen for a fresh start ahead of the Rugby Championship next month.
Earlier, British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland rallied behind his fellow Kiwi, highlighting his achievements and expressing empathy for his plight.
“I’ve got a huge amount of respect for what Robbie’s achieved in rugby,” he said. “I know it’s been really tough for him being here. There’s a lot of people split about whether he should carry on the job.
He added that he and Deans, the Wallabies’ first foreign coach who has been in charge of a record 74-Tests since 2008, chatted after Saturday’s game.
“He said he might get to see us in November but that depends on what happens in the next few weeks,” said Gatland, who is also the coach of Wales, referring to the Wallabies’ European tour later this year.
Australia’s next Test is against the world champion All Blacks in Sydney on August 17.
Deans has had a chequered history with the Wallabies with a 58% success rate — winning 43 Tests and losing 29.
The team’s failure to win on Saturday means Deans still lacks a defining moment as Wallaby coach.
His high point remains the 2011 Tri Nations triumph in the weeks before the World Cup in New Zealand. He is better remembered for being in charge of shattering defeats to Scotland (twice), Samoa at home, a 53-8 rout by South Africa in Johannesburg and an ill-fated World Cup campaign in New Zealand two years ago, when the Wallabies never recovered from a 15-6 defeat by Ireland in the group stage.
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