Brumbies, Reds coaches in Wallabies coaching spotlight

April 14, 2022 GMT

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The rivalry between the ACT Brumbies and Queensland Reds for supremacy among Australian teams in Super Rugby Pacific has been made more intense by competition between the team’s head coaches for the Wallabies head coaching role which will become vacant after next year’s World Cup.

Incumbent Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is contracted through the 2023 world tournament in France and might receive a contract extension in Australia if successful. If not, he will likely depart and Brumbies head coach Dan McKellar and his Reds’ counterpart Brad Thorn are the leading candidates to take over.

McKellar already is an assistant coach with the Wallabies and will leave the Brumbies at the end of the season to take on that role fulltime. Thorn’s contract with the Reds ends next year and he added heat to the discussion over the future coach with a statement this week in which he announced his wish to coach the Wallabies “later down the track.”

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Thorn’s statement preceded revelations in Australian media that figures connected with Rugby Australia appear already to be briefing journalists against Thorn and in favor of McKellar. The Sydney Morning Herald quoted “a high-ranking Rugby Australia official” as saying Thorn is not a “team player” and that he would be unlikely to be considered for the Wallabies role unless he can “turn that around.”

The report drew an immediate and angry response from the Queensland Rugby Union, on Thorn’s behalf.

QRU chief executive David Hanham said in a statement he had contacted Rugby Australia to express concern at the comments made by the unidentified official.

“On behalf of the Queensland Rugby Union, I would like to refute recent comments made by an unnamed Rugby Australia source in the Sydney Morning Herald,” Hanham said. “It’s disappointing to see these comments and after reading this I have raised my concerns with RA CEO Andy Marinos and he will follow up directly.

“From the QRU’′ perspective Brad is doing a wonderful job here in Queensland, leading our football program and developing our players to be best prepared for both national and international success with the Queensland Reds and Wallabies.”

Thorn led the Reds last season to the Super Rugby Australia title. The Brumbies beat the Reds 16-12 in their first meeting this season and the Red beat the Brumbies 21-7 in their second.

In his statement Thorn said he hoped to coach the Wallabies “at the right time.”

“I hold the Wallabies coaching role in high esteem,” he said. “It’s a privilege and a responsibility. I don’t believe you should just walk in there and get the job. You have to earn the right.”

“If the opportunity presented itself at the right time later down the track, I would be honored to coach the Wallabies. But that’s for other people to make that decision.”

The Brumbies will sit out this weekend’s ninth round of Super Rugby matches while the Reds will play Melbourne Rebels. The Western Force meet the New South Wales Waratahs in the other Australian match.

The Auckland-based Blues will play the Christchurch-based Crusaders in a match between the top-ranked New Zealand teams. The Blues haven’t won in Christchurch for 18 years.

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