Ewen McKenzie will leave the Queensland Reds at the end of this season after overseeing the Australian team’s transformation from Super Rugby strugglers to title contenders, saying he wants to coach a national squad.
McKenzie, who moved to a director of coaching role with the Reds this year after guiding the Brisbane-based franchise to back-to-back Australian Conference titles, said he’s “ready for the next level” after nine years with provincial teams.
“I’d love to be able to coach at a higher level, but loving and getting opportunities is two different things,” McKenzie, 47, said at a televised news conference. “It really depends on what opportunities there are. There may be none.”
McKenzie, a Rugby World Cup winner with Australia in 1991, has been linked in local media with taking over as Wallabies coach from Robbie Deans, whose contract runs out at the end of this year. McKenzie said today that he’ll look at options at home and overseas amid speculation that he could be a candidate to coach Ireland following its second-last finish in Europe’s Six Nations tournament.
“That’s purely a function of timing,” McKenzie said. “Ireland had a loss on the weekend and I’ve made an announcement today, and people put two and two together. If there’s a coaching assignment that looks like a real challenge for me, I’ll have a look at it.”
McKenzie coached the New South Wales Waratahs, Stade Francais and the Reds since ending a three-year spell as Wallabies assistant coach in 2003.
In 2010, McKenzie took a Queensland team that had won eight games during the previous three seasons to fifth place, its best finish in eight years. The Reds won their first Super Rugby title in the professional era in 2011 and also reached the six-team finals series last year. They’re currently fifth in the 15-team standings with a 3-2 record.
“When Ewen joined us in late 2009 the Reds and Queensland Rugby were at a very low point,” Queensland Rugby Chairman Rod McCall said in the statement. “Ewen has not only been responsible for turning around the on-field performances and attitude of the Queensland Reds, but he has also played an integral role in bringing success back into our organization.”