Reds coach Ewen McKenzie has added to the pressure building on Wallabies coach Robbie Deans by confirming he will quit Super Rugby at the end of this season to pursue a test job.
McKenzie has made no secret of his desire to step up to the next level.
And with New Zealander Deans constantly under the spotlight with his patchy record in charge of the Wallabies since 2008, there appears to be a viable local alternative for the Australians.
The microscope will intensify on Deans this year as he faces the British & Irish Lions in three tests as well as the usual tussles with the All Blacks, Springboks and Pumas.
Deans’ contract finishes this year.
McKenzie told The Australian newspaper that he wanted to be open with his decision to allow people time to cover his departure. Queensland have a ready-made replacement in McKenzie’s right-hand man, Richard Graham, who was lured from the Western Force with an eye to eventually taking over.
"It's appropriate to be up front about it now because the contracting decisions on the 2014 season are being made now," McKenzie said.
"Me making my decision allows 50 other people in this organisation to make their decisions. I'd love to have the opportunity to coach the Wallabies but I don't control the timing of the ARU. Things at this level are all about timing. But this way I create my own timing."
Having returned from the French club scene to take the erratic Reds to the Super Rugby title in 2011, McKenzie feels he has proven himself at provincial level and wants a chance with an international side.
The Wallabies mightn’t be his only option with international teams at a junction ahead of the 2015 World Cup in England.
"I've been coaching at this level now for about 13 years and I'm ready to move up to the next level."
Queensland Rugby Union chairman Rod McCall said there was no surprise in McKenzie’s decision and believed he had claims to a high position.
“We've been planning for this because it was always obvious to us that Ewen is the best coach in Australia and was always going to end up coaching at test level," McCall said.
"To be honest, we are fortunate to have had Ewen involved for this long. In my opinion he probably should have been coaching the Wallabies already."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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