McKenzie the right man for Wallabies top job - Poidevin
Vote of confidence ... Ewen Mckenzie "stands head and shoulders above anyone else as the best candidate to succeed Robbie Deans", according to Simon Poidevin. Photo: Getty Images
EWEN McKENZIE stands head and shoulders above anyone else as the best candidate to succeed Robbie Deans should there be a change of Wallabies coach after the British and Irish Lions tour this year, says former Australian captain Simon Poidevin.
Speaking with Fairfax Media in a wide-ranging interview on rugby in 2013, Poidevin also poured water on suggestions new Waratahs coach Michael Cheika could challenge McKenzie for the Australian post should NSW have a successful first season under him.
Poidevin also warned Queensland and Wallabies playmaker Quade Cooper that if his issues with Deans and the ARU continued to distract the Wallabies, then it should be him who farewells Australian rugby, not the coach.
''Put it this way, if it is not resolved then Quade will be doing something else,'' Poidevin said of the Cooper saga. ''At the end of the day, it's the coach who runs the teams … Any player who thinks he runs the team - and a national team - is dreaming.''
Poidevin also said Cheika would not let anything distract him from his job at the Waratahs.
''Michael Cheika is totally focused on building generational change at the Waratahs,'' Poidevin said. ''He has no interest in aspiring to any Wallaby job. He is smart. He is fair and knows he has got an aim to achieve over the next three years, and he will do that.
''He won't be distracted by any sort of desire to move into a Wallaby role. If Robbie Deans did drop off the perch then Ewen McKenzie is the absolute lay-down misere for that job.''
Poidevin also believes many Waratahs are in for a shock. ''Michael sets very high standards for himself, his staff and his players. People are finding that very quickly. Cultural change will provide significant results for the Waratahs. Look at the Wallabies spring tour … the Test team was dominated by Waratahs players. Then look at last season in Super Rugby and you wonder how the hell that team did not do better.
''I'll be upfront … it was an appalling coaching performance by Michael Foley [who has left]. The coach of any sport is the one who is finally accountable and sets the agenda. Those players now realise under Michael Cheika the standards required. If they think those past standards are acceptable now, they won't be around for long.''
However, Poidevin is confident that with Cheika and McKenzie pushing their Super Rugby sides to play an expansive running game, Australian rugby will benefit from top to bottom.
While he believes it will affect how grassroots sides play, he also predicts that with the two biggest provinces playing the same style of game, Deans will be pressured into reviewing the Wallabies' style.
''The push through into club and juniors by success of the Waratahs can't be underestimated,'' Poidevin said. ''It is hugely important to rugby that the Waratahs go well and become a sporting entity that young kids want to play for.
''A very expansive game by the Waratahs will also push into club rugby because the players will aspire to getting into the Waratahs. And that will be the style of game they will need to play.
''Furthermore, the expansive way Queensland and NSW play will also put a lot of pressure on Robbie Deans. I am a huge supporter of Robbie, but it is time for Australia to step up a huge cog on how we play the game.''
Twitter - @rupertguinness