Reds coach attracting plenty of praise - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Reds coach attracting plenty of praise

By Jim Morton 15/03/2010 09:12:50 PM Comments (0)

Ewen McKenzie's ability to transform Queensland from Super 14 basket case to finals contender has top judges stamping him as Robbie Deans' successor as Wallabies coach.

Highly-respected coaching guru Alec Evans, former Wallabies centre and selector Michael O'Connor and players union president Rod Kafer on Monday all lauded McKenzie's efforts with the born-again Reds.

Under the former Test prop, Queensland have enjoyed their most successful start to the season in a decade which includes a record 50-10 thrashing of the Western Force and upsets of the Chiefs and Crusaders.

All achieved without three of the Reds' most influential players of 2009 in departing duo Berrick Barnes (NSW) and Hugh McMeniman (Japan) and injured skipper James Horwill.

McKenzie was in line to take over the Wallabies in 2006 following the axing of Eddie Jones but ultimately decided to re-sign with NSW for a further three seasons.

He threw his hat in the ring for the job in early 2008 but was trumped by New Zealander Deans who signed a four-year contract through to next year's World Cup.

Renowned scrum doctor Evans - who has worked as an assistant to Test mentors Alan Jones, Rod Macqueen and John Connolly - is currently working as McKenzie's forwards deputy at the Reds and ranked him among the best he's worked with.

"He's as good as anyone," Evans told AAP.

"I don't want to be jumping the gun here and Ewen wouldn't because he's fairly established with the Reds and that's all that's on his mind, but he's got the credentials to step up to the next level.

"I think he was ready (in 2006) and it was probably a missed opportunity for him. And he's grown a lot as a coach in the last three years.

"If Robbie Deans went back to New Zealand he's at the top of the (Wallabies coaching) list."

McKenzie had the inside rail for the Test position before Deans was overlooked by the NZRU for the All Blacks job after the 2007 World Cup.

Since then he led NSW to the 2008 Super 14 final, where the Waratahs lost to Deans' Crusaders, and spent a year coaching Stade Francais in the French Top 14.

Former Wallabies and Brumbies back Kafer believed the time in Europe added a dimension to McKenzie's Test claims.

"Ewen has all the characteristics you want as an international coach," he said.

"What better resume and he's had success everywhere he's gone.

"There's not a better example of genuine coaching skill than turning an under-performing team to an over-performing team in a short period of time. It is a rare skill."

O'Connor took his hat off to McKenzie for immediately improving a squad he inherited.

While the Reds boast genuine talents like Will Genia, Quade Cooper and Digby Ioane, who have been fostered by the likes of Deans and Phil Mooney, they can also attribute their rise to their development of Saia and Anthony Faingaa, Ben Daley, Jake Schatz and Luke Morahan.

"He's picking younger players and reputation means nothing (it's) how you go and your attitude at training," dual international O'Connor said.

"Those forwards are just going forward and getting over the advantage line, no nonsense, and there's a hard edge about them this year."

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