All Blacks will need to hatch new plans for McKenzie's Wallabies
James Mortimer 10 Jul 2013 Getty Images
Ewen McKenzie’s status within Australian Rugby has grown as somewhat of a messiah for the Reds, a mantle well-earned considering the extraordinary turnaround of Queensland Rugby on and off the field, not merely winning an Investec Super Rugby crown, but turning the organisations finances and playing number across the state from the negative to the positive.
Of course the new Wallabies coach cannot take all the credit, but he installed that all important winning culture, backed by the 2011 title, the 2012 Australian Conference crown, and another Super Rugby Finals Series appearance this season – and such things make dramatic impact to things like players registering and money going into the coffers.
Deans Wallabies presented a dual threat to the All Blacks, although a multitude of factors, from injuries to differing game plans, through to the pedigree of New Zealand during the former Crusaders mentor’s Australian reign, meant that fleeting moments of brilliance were not sustained to multiple match winning momentum.
On one front, summed up by more than a couple of matches where the Wallabies held a halftime lead, the All Blacks were able to overcome them in the second half.
But the fact that the Wallabies were able to maintain patches of match dominance as well as moment of winning sparks, were part of the dual threats.
First, they had a swagger about them that ultimately some would suggest counted against them, even if the current ‘rock star’ Australians have lost only four of their last seven to the All Blacks - evident of the belief that some of the younger Wallabies have brought to the side.
Second, the Wallabies able to play a game of attacking rugby that at its explosive best blew open the All Blacks defence, but their highlight reel has been less than the records racked up by the World Champions in terms of Bledisloe Rivalry and head to head numbers.
If McKenzie can harness these aspects, as well as the fact that he has a wider player base at his disposal perhaps than any Wallabies coach before him, arguably Deans greatest legacy, he will have an ideal platform to hatch his plans.
His time at the Reds did prove that miracles don’t work in just one season, and it also revealed that McKenzie, who had a more stoic and forward orientated approach with the Waratahs, was able to alter his coaching style, with Queensland becoming one of the most feared attacking sides.
While some suggest that instantly Quade Cooper will come back into the fold, McKenzie will take a step back from what he has in front of him at the Reds and approach a broader stance, necessary if he is to get the best out of the Wallabies, and he now has a wider player base available to him – with the new Wallabies coach no doubt chomping at the bit to get his hands on players from five Super Rugby sides, rather than one.
The All Blacks won’t plan for a specific Wallabies, wary that the change may not eventuate for a few matches, but equally alert to the fact that the Australians could, as sport has proven repeatedly, be galvanised by the new appointment.
McKenzie brings a 19-4 winning record against Kiwi sides during his time as Reds coach, and while that success wasn’t evident in his time in Waratahs colours, quite simply the new Wallabies coach has spent time planning how to counter the New Zealand style of play.
He will be licking his lips at the chance to ply his trade against the World Champions, even if he will be wary that Deans proved no amount of Super Rugby pedigree can guarantee international success, something that even Sir Graham Henry discovered.
However one suspects the All Blacks will themselves be looking forward to the new challenge, for their greatest sparring partner has just got a new trainer in their corner.
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