Brumbies coach Dan McKellar will leave the Super Rugby team after next season with the aim of playing a bigger role with the Wallabies, where he’s an assistant to Dave Rennie and seemingly earmarked for the top job in the future.
McKellar, a Queenslander, has been with the Brumbies organisation since 2014 when he was added as a defence and skills coach before taking over the top job from Stephen Larkham in 2018.
The 45-year-old led the Brumbies to back-to-back Super Rugby AU finals after claiming the title in 2020 and was added to the wallabies staff as a forwards assistant ahead of the series win over France.
He said his family’s background in Queensland was in part behind the decision to leave after the 2022 season, with the Wallabies based on the Gold Coast.
He said the decision to move on was “incredibly tough … because of the love I have for the place, and the people that are involved in it.”
“I’ll be forever grateful to the Brumbies, and it’s been a huge part of my life,” McKellar told a media conference.
“I’ve spent the best part of a decade in Canberra, so it’ll be a sad day when I do leave.
“But I’m just excited to get back there once I’ve finished my commitments here and rip in, and have a really good season to finish off my time there.
“The timing was right, just for me and for my family. I’ve got two young girls and a wife who’ve been incredibly supportive and it’s probably time for them to go home, back to Queensland, and time for me to challenge myself and coach at the highest level with the Wallabies.”
He said he would not be directly involved in choosing a Brumbies successor but expected he would be asked his opinion of potential candidates.
“I’ll have conversations with Phil Thompson and Chris Tindall, and I’ll be on the outer and not directly involved with the appointment, but I’ve got a good relationship with those men and no doubt they’ll ask me at different points in time,” McKellar said.
“There’s a lot of good young coaches, a lot of good, experienced coaches. The Brumbies is a club that’s in a pretty good position at the moment, on-field and off-field.
“There’s a real stability there, there’s a really good, exciting playing roster, and I don’t think there will be any issue with getting quality applicants. The right person for the job will be selected by others and I know they’ll get that right.”
McKellar said he had benefiited from being involved in the Wallabies set up but was playing down talk of him being next in line for the head coach role after Rennie.
“I’m not big on succession plans or those sorts of conversations, all those sorts of things can go pear-shaped real quick, so I’m just focussed on coming in here and experiencing international rugby, getting to coach against the All Blacks, that’s a real privilege, and obviously to coach the Wallabies,” McKellar said.
“I’m in no rush. What will be, will be. I’m just really grateful to be here and coach professionally full stop, and if one day in time I get the chance to be head coach of the Wallabies, then that would be something I’m incredibly proud of.
“But I’m in no rush, I just want this team to perform really well on the 7th of August at Eden Park.”
McKellar said his focus was on this weekend’s opening Bledisloe Cup match.
“Where do you start, there’s threats across the park, isn’t there?” he said of the All Blacks.
“They’re one of the best teams in the world, they’ll challenge at set piece and like any New Zealand side they’ll challenge off turnover attack, and from an unstructured scenario, we need to make sure we defend really well.
“They’ve got quality players but the big thing is they’re human beings and if you put them under pressure, put a little bit of stress back on them as we saw a little bit last year through Wallabies performances, they can feel that stress and that pressures and that anxiety, and you can cash in off the back of it.
“We’ve got a whole lot of respect for them, there’s quality across the park, but to be honest, we’ve focussed on what we’ve learned out of the French series within our own game, and understand that we’ve got to front up in a couple of key areas to win our first game at Eden Park in a fair period of time.
“I thought there was some really good passages throughout that series. We managed to put a lot of pressure on the French at key moments within all three games, and that’s something we’re continuing to grow and improve on as a group.
“The reality is I’ve only been in here for a few weeks and it takes time, but I’m just really pleased with how the players have bought in and they’re keen to learn, and buy in how we want to do things moving forward.
“There was some growth throughout that that French series, and we’re fully aware that we’ve got to go to another level on Saturday.”