James Mortimer 14.Jul.2013Getty Images
McKenzie was part of one of the more formidable Wallaby front rows throughout history, with the experienced mentor having won six from 13 Tests as a scrum anchor against the All Blacks, and the man called ‘Link’ was part of the first hint of a Wallabies generation that were quite open in their quest to talk down their Tasman rivals – in what has emerged as a constant physiological barrage from Australia to break down what has been called ‘the All Blacks aura’.
The 2011 Super Rugby winning, former Waratahs and Stade Francais coach hasn’t pulled the mat completely out, being measured in his approach when talking about the All Blacks, the measured tones of a canny boss who knows went to stop giving verbal motivation to his opponents.
But his exploits of the Reds, where one of the worst consecutive records in Australian rugby and a flailing bottom line was turned around by a man who challenged his men to put history aside, were most noted for the ability to get the team to stare the past in the face and conquer elements that stood in the way of eventual glory.
It was this mantra that turned Queensland into what some Kiwis still to this day claim as an almost mythical revival, as a Reds team that often looks inferior on paper to their New Zealand counterparts put such theories ruthlessly aside – allowing the McKenzie era Reds to register a 19-4 record against rivals across the Tasman in Super Rugby competition.
It has been tactics and planning that has allowed this to happen, even if a certain Will Genia has been at the forefront of some of recent efforts.
The only similarity so far to previous Wallabies coaches is the fact that McKenzie has said that everything needs to fall into place to beat the All Blacks, and even then it would not be a guaranteed result he explained to the Age.
“It's not easy (to beat the All Blacks),” McKenzie said.
“Historically we've got a one-in-three record (currently at 28.7% winning record for Australia) and we've probably been better than that at times and also worse. Even when we've been good we've only been able to knock them off by a point here or a point there, so that says you've got to have everything going right.
“The right team, the right tactics, and the right motivation, and even then it's going to be tough. But that's just the way it is.'
Some would say the ultimately it was Deans three wins from 18 Tests against the All Blacks that cost him, with most other records (namely his record against European teams and the Springboks) that were comfortably in the former Crusaders mentor favour.
If it was the Bledisloe Cup ledger, McKenzie has wasted no time in identifying it as his greatest challenge, and has openly embraced back-to-back Tests against the World Champions to begin his tenure with Australia.
He has made it clear he has done his homework, going as far to tell the Daily Telegraph that his intelligence work on the All Blacks had extended to individual selections.
“They're the most winning team in world rugby so it's a challenge, but they don't always win,” he said.
“I've got my ideas already about the All Blacks, depending on who they pick. It depends who is fit. I will look at it more laterally.”