McKenzie could have been in Schmidt's shoes

Australia head coach Ewen McKenzie. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Des Berry

EWEN McKenzie could have been where Joe Schmidt is right now

"I didn't fly over here and case the joint. I had a look and made a few inquiries. That is what you do when you're looking for something to do.

"They had their own thoughts and I can understand why they made the decision the way they did," said McKenzie.

The IRFU's desire to secure the services of Schmidt as Ireland head coach was a blessing in disguise for the former coach of the Queensland Reds.

The Australia coach made the Reds aware he wanted to move on from Super Rugby in February. At the time, Robbie Deans was the Wallaby coach, the situation eventually "unfolding" in McKenzie's favour.

"Life works out how it's meant to. Until someone offers you the job, there is no decision to be made," he said about talking to the IRFU last season.

The call never came from the IRFU. It did from the Australian Union, where winning isn't even enough.

"Winning is not enough. That is now my mantra. I've learned that over time. It is how you win and it is also what you do with the wins," he said.

"We have a very cluttered winter sports market place in Australia. You've got to get the fans to turn up. People call that entertainment. Call it what you want.


"We like to keep the fans on the edge of their seats. That is where Quade Cooper, for me, is a really interesting player because you don't quite know what you're going to get.

"I am very conscious of the fan base in Australia. We've got to keep ourselves relevant against the other sports. There are some big engines out there in other codes that we compete with."

It is no different in Ireland where Gaelic games and soccer are the competing parties for the attention of patrons. That is why Brian O'Driscoll and Jonathan Sexton are so important. Every sport has to have its heroes.

McKenzie stopped short of comparing Cooper to Ireland's out-half Sexton: "I've got a lot of respect for him (Sexton). He can make the difference in a game. You are looking for guys who can change a game and he can."

There has been no greater entertainer than O'Driscoll: "He's got all the smarts that go with that experience. Players like him command attention.

"That is a real challenge for us because whoever is going to be in front of him is probably going to have a real good opportunity to learn."

Everyone needs a hero. Even an Australian.