New South Wales Waratahs will fast-track a decision on coach Ewen McKenzie’s fate before the end of the Super 14 season, but have denied speculation the job has already been offered to assistant coach Todd Louden.
Bret Harris writes in The Australian that McKenzie’s chances of securing his future received a setback with rugby league recruit, Timana Tahu, expected to be sidelined for five to six weeks with a hamstring injury.
The NSWRU originally intended to wait until the end of the season to review the Waratahs’ results before making a decision on McKenzie, who is in his fifth year at the helm.
At the start of the year Waratahs chief executive Jim L’Estrange said a top four finish was a minimum requirement for the team, which is sitting in sixth place with a 3-1 win-loss record.
But L’Estrange said on Tuesday the Waratahs had to make a decision on the coach sooner rather than later.
This indicates the Waratahs are seriously considering overseas-based candidates, who would currently be in contract negotiations with European clubs, for the job. “We need to be aware of external influences and lock down the coaches as soon as we can,” L’Estrange said.
“I am thinking of what we need to do to prepare for beyond this season. A coaching resource may be available now. If we did make a change, we would also have to give our existing coaches an opportunity to access other opportunities.
“I haven’t made a decision on Ewen. I’ve had honest and transparent discussions with Ewen. I’ve told Ewen he has a responsibility to do well. We have won three out of four so we are feeling good at the moment.”
It has been rumoured that the Waratahs had offered Louden the head coaching job to prevent him accepting a position overseas. Louden was the assistant coach of defending Super 14 champions the Bulls last year and was offered the head coaching role after the departure of Heyneke Meyer.
But Louden turned the offer down to return to Australia with his wife and baby.
“Absolutely not. Emphatically not. Categorically, there has been no job offer to Todd,” L’Estrange said.
“Todd is contracted to us for next year. He’s done a great job and he is a valued member of the coaching team. It’s not a matter of rushing in and making change for change’s sake.”
Meanwhile, Tahu has been ruled out of the Waratahs’ big game against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday night with a hamstring injury and may be sidelined for another five weeks. Tahu, who had a history of hamstring injuries in rugby league, pulled out of the derby match against the Brumbies two weeks ago.
While it was upsetting to lose Tahu, McKenzie said it was important to get him playing to his full potential.
“There’s a bit of a loop happening in terms of the injury site and the way it’s occurring,” McKenzie said. “What we don’t want to do is keep having the same cycle. To break that cycle will take a little bit longer and we’ll get it right once and for all.”
McKenzie is expected to name an unchanged starting line-up with Alfi Mafi on the left wing, although utility back Sam Norton-Knight and halfback Josh Valentine may be called up to the bench. The Waratahs will face a full-strength Crusaders side with coach Robbie Deans expected to restore several players he rested in the side’s 55-7 romp against the Cheetahs last Saturday.
There has been a lot of speculation about fullback Leon MacDonald replacing the injured Stephen Brett at inside centre, but as Deans intimated this week, he is likely to go with a midfield specialist such as Tim Bateman.
Meanwhile, Waratahs blindside flanker Rocky Elsom is expected to make a decision about his future next week.
Elsom is considering taking a break from Australian rugby for personal reasons, and would have a stint playing overseas before returning for the 2011 World Cup.Tweet