McKenzie remains defiant



A defiant Ewen McKenzie has called on any disgruntled Wallabies to man up and spill their concerns face to face.

As wild rumours fly left, right and centre that his days as Australian Test coach are numbered, McKenzie declared his hunger for the job remained strong.

He also brushed away any desire to be loved by his players, but did stress he wanted respect.

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“It hasn’t been easy, but that’s life,” he said of the constant speculation. “My job is to get a group of people to play with purpose and get an outcome on the weekend.

“Is it about a popularity contest? It can’t be. Because the only people who will like you will be 15 in the starting team.

“I don’t care. I actually want them to respect me. They will respect me for being consistent and honest and actually dealing with them face to face.”

With his success rate down to 52 per cent after tour losses to South Africa and Argentina, and still looking for his first victory over the All Blacks when they meet at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night, McKenzie admitted his future would be driven by results.

He’s gained an assurance from Australian Rugby Union chief executive Bill Pulver he’ll lead the Wallabies on next month’s five-week tour of Europe.

It appears McKenzie’s hopes of taking Australia to the 2015 World Cup will hinge on performances against England, France, Ireland, Wales and a strong Barbarians outfit boosted by a bevy of former All Blacks.

The former title-winning Queensland mentor led the Wallabies to a 4-1 record on last year’s tour when he took a hardline stance on team culture.

McKenzie has been subjected to rumblings since for instilling former Reds business manager Di Patston in the same role.

He defended his decisions at Tuesday’s team naming, satisfied they were in the best interests of the team, and said if players were unhappy about Patston’s role, they should have raised it with him.

“People don’t need to ask questions through the media – they can ask me questions,” he said.

“I don’t think I’m that intimidating that (there’s) not an opportunity for players (to speak up).”

McKenzie denied the constant speculation about his position was hardly his focus as he made two starting changes for the dead-rubber Bledisloe clash, plus recalling a fit-again Quade Cooper on the bench.

Both Cooper and Christian Leali’ifano, to start at inside centre while Rob Simmons (head knock) returns in the second-row, said the coach had the team’s support.

Looking to score their first win over the All Blacks in three years, McKenzie called for character from his players.

“In the tough moments, character is an important ingredient,” he said.


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