Embattled McKenzie defiant

2014-10-14 14:01
Ewen McKenzie (AFP)

Brisbane - Embattled coach Ewen McKenzie on Tuesday told any disgruntled Wallabies to voice their concerns to him amid reports of player unrest ahead of this weekend's Test against the All Blacks.

The fallout from the Kurtley Beale text scandal has put McKenzie's coaching position under scrutiny at a time when his success rate has slumped to 52 percent from his 21 Tests in charge.

McKenzie said he wasn't interested in any desire to be loved by his players, but he wanted their respect.

"It hasn't been easy, but that's life," McKenzie told reporters after naming his team to face New Zealand in the final Bledislow Cup Test in Brisbane on Saturday.

"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."

After back-to-back losses away to South Africa and Argentina and still looking for his first victory over the All Blacks, McKenzie said his future would be driven by results.

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

But McKenzie's hopes of taking Australia to the 2015 World Cup could hinge on performances against England, France, Ireland, Wales and a strong Barbarians outfit.

McKenzie has been subjected to rumblings since installing former Queensland Reds business manager Di Patston in the same role within the national team structure.

He defended his decisions at Tuesday's team naming 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 has made two starting changes for the dead-rubber Bledisloe Test match, 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 to lock, said the coach had the team's support.

McKenzie has had a tumultuous week dealing with the fall-out of the Beale text scandal which led to the resignation of Patston.

The coach was forced to deny having an affair with Patston and rejected reports of team splits over her role in the running of the team.

Beale faces an Australian Rugby Union code of conduct hearing, with his future in serious doubt, following the publication of the text messages between him and Patston.

Read more on:    wallabies  |  ewen mckenzie  |  rugby

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