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The Qantas Wallabies have finalised their coaching team for the upcoming Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship with Queensland Reds senior assistant coach Jim McKay set to continue his successful partnership with Ewen McKenzie at a national level.
McKenzie has appointed McKay to the role of Qantas Wallabies Attack Coach as part of his inaugural coaching setup, which also includes fellow Assistant Coaches Nick Scrivener and Andrew Blades, who will be responsible for the team’s defence and set-piece respectively.
McKay, who has been contracted through until the end of the 2015 World Cup, has formed a formidable combination with McKenzie in Queensland over the past four years.
Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver congratulated McKay on his appointment and Queensland Rugby for making it possible.
“Over the past four years Ewen McKenzie and Jim McKay consistently delivered high levels of success for the Queensland Reds and they now have an opportunity to continue their partnership for the benefit of the Qantas Wallabies,” Mr Pulver said.
“To have appointed two Queenslanders in quick succession to the national team highlights the health of the game in Queensland.”
Scrivener and Blades will continue in their second year with the Qantas Wallabies to form a strong four-man coaching group alongside McKenzie and McKay.
A foundation member of the Brumbies in 1996, Scrivener has extensive coaching experience both in Australia and abroad and was brought into the national team’s setup when hired as their Coaching Assistant in 2012.
He boasts an impressive coaching resume which includes stints as the Head Coach of Scotland A, the Australian Rugby Union’s National Academy and in Edinburgh, where he also served as Defence Coach.
Scrivener was also a member of the Brumbies coaching staff for 10 seasons, winning two Super Rugby titles, and has worked as an assistant coach of the Australian Under 21 and Australia A teams.
Blades is currently in his second stint with the Qantas Wallabies after earlier taking up a role with Australia in 2004 and will continue to be responsible for the team’s scrum and lineout.
As a coach, Blades has also enjoyed consistent success and assisted Eddie Jones and then David Nucifora on the Brumbies coaching staff before taking on a role as Forwards Coach with the Newcastle Falcons in England’s club Premiership from 2002-04.
His playing resume is equally impressive and he has 32 Test appearances and a Rugby World Cup victory in 1999 to his name, while he also played 47 matches for NSW at a provincial level between 1992 and 1999, along with one Super 10 championship-winning season with the Queensland Reds in 1995.
Headhunted from the prestigious Leicester Tigers Academy by then incoming Reds coach Ewen McKenzie in 2010, McKay brought with him an incredible winning strike rate of over 80 per cent in 14 seasons.
In that time McKay was Head Coach in the amateur scene at North Walsham, travelling through a number of semi-professional clubs such as the Henley Hawks and at top-flight organisations like Orrell and Leicester.
He also spent four years as Head Coach of top Division 1 side Cornish Pirates in Cornwall, which included winning the National Powergen Cup at Twickenham.
McKay won a Super Rugby title in just his second year with Queensland in 2011, a year the Reds broke their Super Rugby season try scoring record, which had previously stood since 1996.
In 2012, McKay also finished his Masters of Coaching and Education after completing his final thesis on the ‘Role of Unstructured Practice in Elite Rugby’ at Sydney University.
McKenzie said the new coaching group had combined successfully during the early stages.
“We’ve effectively ended up with two new faces and two existing coaches, which has allowed us to morph things in the direction where we see opportunity, while also protecting continuity in areas where the team is already functioning productively,” McKenzie said.
“The structure has now moved away from the traditional forwards and backs concept because that polarises training. By coaching as an attack, defence or set piece, it allows us to coach and train in a more game-like manner.
“Within all of that, I’ll concentrate more on the team elements around the tactics and the game-plan, along with the breakdown, and then work on blending the skills of all three coaches together. Right now, I really think we’ve got a good mix between technical and tactical.
“The group also has varying levels of experience but we all have coached multiple teams in different environments, both in Australia and Europe. That has helped as we come together quickly and hopefully will allow us to get off to a strong start.”
Qantas Wallabies Coaching Staff:
Head Coach – Ewen McKenzie
Attack Coach – Jim McKay
Set Piece Coach – Andrew Blades
Defence Coach – Nick Scrivener