Force's Graham to coach Reds

2012-04-16 10:16

Brisbane - Force coach Richard Graham will leave the Perth-based team at the end of the Super Rugby season to become head coach of defending champion Reds.

"The Force and Rugby (West Australia) gave me an opportunity to undertake my first full-time head coaching position and I'll forever be grateful for that," the former Reds fullback and Wallabies assistant coach said on Monday.

"I felt it was something I needed to do but I wish to make it clear that it is in no way a reflection on RugbyWA or the Western Force."

Queensland-raised Graham will take over at the Reds from Super Rugby-winning coach Ewen McKenzie who is expected to become the franchise's director of coaching. McKenzie is also expected to become Wallabies head coach when Robbie Deans steps down next year.

The Force share last place in the Australia conference of the Super Rugby but have beaten the Reds and Waratahs in recent matches.

"I intend to do everything I can to make the back half of our season a successful one and there will be no distractions in my desire to achieve finals for the (Force) in 2012," Graham said.

Graham, who replaced New Zealander John Mitchell as Force coach before the 2011 season, is contracted until 2014, but will be released to take up the Reds' job.

Force chief executive Vern Reid said the franchise would prefer a local replacement.

"It is our preference to find an outstanding Australian coach either currently working overseas or in Australia to be Richard's replacement," he said.

"However, we will look at every possibility to recruit the best-credentialed coach that is available in world rugby."