McKenzie replaces Deans as Wallabies coach

Following their test series loss to the British Lions, The Australian Rugby Union announces change at the top.

    McKenzie replaces Deans as Wallabies coach
    Queensland Reds director of coaching Ewen McKenzie says he is ready for Wallabies challenge [GALLO/GETTY]

    Just days after the Wallabies' embarrassing 41-16 defeat to the British and Irish Lions in the deciding third test match, there's been a shake-up at the head of the squad.

    The Australian Rugby Union announced on Tuesday that Robbie Deans had quit after more than five years as the Wallabies' coach and Ewen McKenzie had been appointed to replace him.

    Deans told ARU chief executive Bill Pulver on Monday that he wanted to quit. His contract was due to end at the end of the season but speculation had been mounting that he'd either quit or be fired before then.

    In a statement released by the ARU on Tuesday, Deans thanked fans, players and officials for their support.

    "It has been a rewarding five years and I am proud of all that we have achieved," he said.

    McKenzie, director of coaching at Super Rugby club the Queensland Reds, is an ex-test prop who won 51 caps for Australia and was a key member of the 1991 World Cup-winning squad.

    "To coach the Wallabies is a huge honour and also a special opportunity to lead a team that I've enjoyed many great experiences with in the past as both a player and coach,'' McKenzie said in an ARU statement.

    "As a role at the highest level, it's one I aspire to because I truly believe I'm ready to make a difference on many levels."

    Deans' resignation brought an end to a five-year reign mired in controversies ranging from selection strategies to what one player described as the 'toxic' environment in the camp.

    Closer to home 

    The New Zealander became the first foreigner appointed as head coach of the Wallabies in 2008. His departure comes only weeks after South Africa's Mickey Arthur, the first foreigner appointed as Cricket Australia's head coach, was fired in the build-up to the Ashes series in England.

    ACT Brumbies coach Jake White, a South African who guided the Springboks to the 2007 World Cup, was another person under consideration for the Wallabies job. But White said on Tuesday he had no doubt McKenzie got the nod over him because of his Australian heritage.

    It's not a perception, it's a fact... You fired the cricket coach, put an Aussie in, fired the rugby coach and put an Aussie in

    Jake White, Overlooked ACT Brumbies coach

    "It's not a perception, it's a fact," said White.

    "It just happened. You fired the cricket coach, put an Aussie in, fired the rugby coach and put an Aussie in.

    "It's not a case that I'm fearing about it. South Africa pick a South African, Kiwis pick Kiwis. England rugby pick English people to pick the team. They've tried foreigners and I appreciate that. That doesn't mean that I have to agree or disagree with it. That's the nature of the game we're in.''

    In a news conference last week ahead of the series-deciding test in Sydney, Deans said he thrived on the rollercoaster emotions of coaching international rugby and couldn't imagine a day when he didn't have a test match to plan for.

    The 53-year-old former All Blacks fullback was head coach in 74 tests for the Wallabies, more than any previous coach. He led the Wallabies to 43 wins, 29 losses and two draws, for a winning ratio of 58 percent. But he was never able to reproduce the consistency and success he had as coach of the Christchurch-based Super Rugby powerhouse Crusaders.

    While the Wallabies had some stirring wins during his tenure, it was some of the losses that counted against him, including shocking home defeats to Samoa and Scotland and a World Cup group-stage loss to Ireland.

    He guided Australia to the Tri-Nations title in 2011, but the Wallabies then struggled at the World Cup and, after narrowly beating 2007 champion South Africa in the quarterfinals, were outplayed by eventual champion New Zealand in the semifinals.

    Pulver said Deans made a significant contribution to Australian rugby.

    "Robbie came into the job in 2008, improved our away record almost immediately, delivered a Tri-Nations title in 2011, and has been a significant part of a Lions tour that overshadows any other rugby event in Australia since the 2003 Rugby World Cup."



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