Queensland Reds mentor Ewen McKenzie. Photo: Getty Images
Ewen McKenzie has brushed off suggestions the ARU has blacklisted him for the Wallabies coaching job because his former life as a prop means he knows nothing about running a backline.
A story on ESPN on Tuesday said McKenzie was next to no chance to take over from Robbie Deans, despite his impressive work with the Queensland Reds and widespread support from players and various administrators on both sides of the Tweed.
If you read the quotes, you'll work out the depth of intelligence that came with that comment
A senior ARU official, reportedly a key player in any future recruitment process, was quoted as saying McKenzie had no chance of getting the top job because of a perceived ignorance of backline play.
"As long as my backside is pointing to the ground, Ewen McKenzie will not coach Australia. You cannot have a front-row forward in charge of the Wallabies because they know nothing about backline play," the ARU source was reported as saying.
McKenzie misses little in preparing for matches and likewise in the media. He saw the story and said it was impossible to keep everybody happy in the cut-throat world of elite rugby.
"Obviously someone doesn't like me, but you find that when you travel around" he said.
"It's a bit like politics – you can't get everyone to like you. All I can do is rely on where I'm up to as a coach."
The suggestion McKenzie couldn't manage a world-class backline is beyond baffling, given the way the Reds have gone about their work since his arrival. Their free-running style was a feature of their 2011 run to the Super Rugby title.
"I don't worry about what I can and can't do from a coaching point of view," he said.
"I've been around long enough.
"If you read the quotes, you'll work out the depth of intelligence that came with that comment."
As it stands, McKenzie remains content in his position as director of coaching at the Reds, where he works with former Force coach Richard Graham in overseeing the rugby program.
Deans remains gainfully employed by the ARU but could potentially endure his most challenging season in charge, with a Lions tour added to the list of international fixtures. Poor results will put immense pressure on the ARU to introduce fresh ideas.
McKenzie said he didn't feel like he was going to pay the price for not playing the political game with powerbrokers in Sydney.
"There's no position to electioneer for. I'm pretty happy doing what I'm doing at the moment. That's about it. You read articles every day. It's a moment in time, someone's comment, it becomes yesterday's news and you talk about something else," he said.
McKenzie did manage to sneak in some rugby talk before the politics came into play, naming the Reds side to take on the Hurricanes on Friday in Brisbane.
Radike Samo returns to the bench after overcoming a knee injury and Aidan Toua replaces Mike Harris (bench) at fullback, with Quade Cooper taking over goal-kicking duties.