Rugby Australia boss Andy Marinos says the race to be the next Wallabies coach is not a “closed shop” and rejected Brumbies coach Dan McKellar’s involvement in the national set-up as a conflict of interest.
Dave Rennie is preparing Australia for next year’s World Cup, where a deep run could see the mentor extend his reign towards the 2027 edition on home soil.
That hasn’t stopped the jostling in the queue though.
Queensland Rugby were left incensed by comments this week from an unnamed RA source in a Nine Network report stating Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn was not a “team player” and wouldn’t be considered for the role.
Thorn, who has led a Reds revival with the team clinching the 2021 Super Rugby AU title, was annoyed to have to address a faceless critic.
“”It’s always interesting when someone says something like that but if there’s no name to it – who am I talking to?” the former dual code international said on Thursday.
“I’ve been big on team here. Obviously from my playing career, in league or union, I wasn’t the bloke scoring lots of tries or flash stuff, I was the bloke hitting breakdowns and doing hit-ups and doing more of the team stuff.
“It’s annoying that I’ve got to stand here. If you feel strongly about something, have a chat, communicate. That’s normal.”
Thorn said Wallabies staff had been welcomed into Reds training, with Rennie and co working at the Queensland headquarters this week.
The comments about Thorn fuelled ongoing speculation that McKellar, who has been an assistant to Rennie for two years and will join full time after this Super Rugby Pacific season, is the heir apparent for the job.
Marinos denied that was the case and said there had been no discussion about the future of the role beyond Rennie.
“No, it’s certainly not a done deal,” he told AAP.
“We have a Wallabies coach and we are happy with our coach. There is no ‘heir apparent’.
“You’ve got to have succession but Dan’s coming in with a point of difference from a forward’s perspective and adding that value.
“Absolutely (Thorn is a contender); at no stage have we said it’s a closed shop or made a pre-determination.
“We believe Dave is the right man to take us forward but it’s about building the resources around us so that, you never know, if anyone needs to take over they’re in a good position to do so.”
The chief executive said Wallabies selections fell entirely on Rennie, insisting McKellar’s dual roles with club and country were not problematic.
“I don’t think it’s a conflict of interest when you’re coaching at a national level you’re there to put what’s best for the national team,” he said.
“Ultimately Dave takes full responsibility for the final decision.”
Former Wallabies captain Phil Kearns was a Thorn fan and thought competition for the coveted coaching role could only be a good thing for Australian rugby.
“I’m not sure Dave’s quite ready to give that up yet but Brad’s done terrific stuff for the Reds in rebuilding them,” the former NSW hooker said.
“I love his no-nonsense approach; it is hard and full of discipline, but a lot of sport is about discipline and getting those attention-to-detail things right.
“He demands that and has done well.
“Let’s keep them all competing for that job, just like players competing on the field.”