Axed McKenzie freed up for Super 15 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Axed McKenzie freed up for Super 15

By Jim Morton 09/09/2009 04:49:24 PM Comments (0)

Ewen McKenzie has firmed as a prime candidate to coach Victoria's proposed Super 15 team after being a stunned victim of the cut-throat nature of French rugby.

The former Melbourne schoolboy suffered a shock axing as Stade Francais' head coach just five rounds into the Top 14, a season after he took them to the semi-finals.

Club owner Max Guazzini said the former NSW Waratahs' message had stopped getting through to his players, a claim flatly denied by McKenzie.

The former Wallabies prop and assistant Test coach, to return to Australia in the coming days, felt he and assistant coach Christophe Dominici were the scapegoats for a slow start to the competition.

Paris-based Stade Francais, the Top 14's pink-coloured glamour club, sit second last with one win, a draw and three losses.

McKenzie said he and the flamboyant Guazzini were philosophically opposed and he paid the price for perceptions his team wouldn't draw big crowds to Stade de France.

"We're at the wrong end of the table but that said two wins and you're in first place," McKenzie told Sky Sports Radio.

"We're not exactly in dire straits but the way the team is organised a lot is around bums on seats for the big games and the owner wanted to do something different.

"This is not an unusual in French sport.

"Often if you're not getting what you want the public execution of the coach is part of the emotional solutions the French subscribe to."

McKenzie, educated at Melbourne's Scotch College, is understood to be on the short-list of potential coaches for the two Victorian syndicates bidding for the new Super 15 license.

He admitted he'd given little thought to his next move but said his situation should serve as a warning with Australian rugby's moves towards private ownership.

"To me it's been a lesson. There's talk of moving to private equity teams in rugby and this has been one of the interesting by-products of private equity," McKenzie said.

"You are at the whim of a person ... which can have a major impact.

"It's not actually about the coaching. You can't sack the players so you sack the coach and that sends the message, that's my interpretation of it."

McKenzie, who helped recruit Mark Gasnier to the Paris club, is the second Australian coach to have his term cut short at Stade Francais' after John Connolly took them to two European Cup finals in 2000 and 2001.

"It's cut-throat and it's a real test of your coaching ability because you are a foreigner," former Wallabies coach Connolly said.

"It's a hard gig, there's a soccer mentality to it I guess.

"In my first year in France half the (Top 14) coaches were gone by Christmas."

McKenzie, who took the Waratahs to the Super 12/14 finals in three of his five seasons in charge, lamented how he'd attempted to change the club's style to suit Guazzini's crowd-pulling desires.

His team was averaging 30 points a game, the best in the competition, but they also had the worst defence.

"It's sort of ironic," McKenzie said.

"I'm being classified as a conservative coach and defence-oriented but that's what's letting us down at the moment and in fact attack has been our strength.

"Philosophically we (Guazzini and McKenzie) have been running in parallel and trying to get that to merge but it hasn't really happened."

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