Wallabies name Dan McKellar as attacking coach, Dave Rennie, Brumbies, Super Rugby
Dan McKellar knows how dangerous succession planning is.
After all, only one assistant to the Wallabies in the past 40 years has become the head coach of the national team.
The Brumbies coach, who was confirmed as the Wallabies coach 10 months after turning down the job on Tuesday, only has to look to his former boss Stephen Larkham to find out that succession plans, in professional sport, rarely go the way you want.
Larkham, who coaches Munster in Ireland, was anointed by former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika as his heir apparent in 2017. Less than two years later, he became the scapegoat for Wallabies struggles as Cheika parted ways with his attack trainer before the World Cup.
So it always seemed like an interesting wording choice when Dave Rennie said last year, after McKellar’s decision to turn down the role due to his Brumbies commitments, that he saw him as a potential successor. Doubtless because Rennie had not yet coached the Wallabies in a test at that time.
After turning to Rebels forward coach and former British and Irish Lions lockdown Geoff Parling on an interim basis last year after McKellar and Laurie Fisher were unavailable, Rennie secured an early victory by securing the services of the Brumbies coach.
“I have been really impressed throughout my relationship with Dan and look forward to working alongside him with the rest of the Wallabies coaching squad this year,” said Rennie.
Recalling Rennie’s comments from last September, McKellar artfully brushed off the comments and said the scoreboard would dictate his progress.
“It’s nice to say, but honestly, I’m not interested in that,” said the fourth-year Brumbies coach.
“It’s professional sport, it’s ruthless, things can change very, very quickly.
“We see it in this game, we see it in other codes.
“If you do your job well and the team is successful, then all of those things work out along the track.”
McKellar turned down the role last year because his attacking coach Peter Hewat accepted an offer that was too good to turn down in Japan.
Not wanting to leave the Brumbies without their head coach and a new assistant, he put the Brumbies first.
He will continue as head coach in 2022 before joining the Wallabies after next season’s Super Rugby competition.
McKellar said he had been in regular contact with Larkham about the challenges of juggling the two roles.
“I spoke with Steve,” he said. “We had these conversations over a year ago. Steve is a good mate of mine and we talk about football quite often and I got his thoughts on it all.
McKellar has impressed Rugby Australia boss Andy Marinos and a subset of the board with his coaching philosophy and vision for the Wallabies field.
This is not surprising as his pack of strikers has been Australia’s best in the past half-decade.
The only unfortunate thing is that it took the Wallabies so long to tap into McKellar’s rugby us.
Cheika’s Wallabies could have used McKellar’s ideas around the rolling maul.
England assistant coach Steve Borthwick, who helped Eddie Jones’ side reach the final, even capitalized on McKellar’s prowess around the crucial set-piece element of the match.
After watching the Wallabies’ closed games over the past few years, 2020 in particular, McKellar is confident that the forward squad can become world class, where he will work alongside scrum coach Petrus du Plessis.
“I think there are the ingredients for a forward peloton that can be world class,” said the former forward rower.
“There are technical elements that I think I can help improve and then there is also the state of mind.
“Obviously I’m going to go out there and take care of the roster and the maul, and if you want to have a good maul, then everyone in the front peloton has to make sure they have that mindset and that he thirsts to do it and loves to do it.
“I have to make sure everyone knows what their job is within this system.
“I see enormous growth in this.
“The rugby test is tough in football and set pieces are an integral part of it, and we have to make sure we get it right and if we do, with the quality and talent that we will have in the baseline. , we’ll give ourselves a chance.
The way he handles his two tight-headed accessories will also be fascinating.
His Brumbies captain, Allan Alaalatoa, has been competing for the role alongside Taniela Tupou since late 2017.
“These are two world-class head-tight accessories. I just think we are fortunate to be able to have two high quality tight head accessories. It wasn’t that long ago that we were looking for top rowers in this country and scrum wasn’t an area of strength – it certainly isn’t now, ”said McKellar.
“I’m going with my role as assistant coach for the Wallabies, it has nothing to do with the Brumbies, and Al is the ultimate professional and I can’t wait to work with both.”
The two tight heads aren’t the only world class props either, with Angus Bell another year stronger and looking like a world class loose head prop.
The young prop from Waratahs will challenge James Slipper from across the front row.
It’s a tantalizing proposition, with the Wallabies having four quality accessories to match the frontline of the Springboks, who played a huge role in their ‘bomb’ front squad that saw them win the World Cup in 2019.