Returning Jim McKay ready for reunion with old pal Stuart Lancaster

When Stuart Lancaster settles into his head-coach seat above the players' tunnel at Twickenham on Saturday, he may glance a few places to his left and break into a smile. The face greeting him will belong to an old friend and coaching confidante, Jim McKay, Australia's recently appointed attack coach.

McKay was a former Randwick player – counting David Campese and the Ella brothers among his illustrious team-mates – who came to England aged 24 on the customary overseas visit and was still here 15 years later running the Leicester academy. Along the way he became pally with "Lanny" – the Englishman was looking after Leeds Carnegie, while McKay, a proud Aussie, was head coach of the Cornish Pirates.

"I've still got my house in Newquay and I'll be going there to get my surfboard out when this tour is over," says McKay of a demanding trip, that kicks off against England and comprises a Grand Slam attempt plus a match in Italy. "It overlooks the beach, there's the seagulls squeaking away, Cornish pasties, all that sort of stuff.

"Stuart used to come down and stay with me and we talked about rugby. I've got a healthy respect for him and I think very fondly about my time in England. Whenever I speak to Stuart he says "you should write a book one day Jim", because it shows all the coaches in England that there's a pathway."

From "a little player-coach role" at Stourbridge through North Walsham ("I hardly lost a game for four years"), Henley, Orrell, Rotherham, the Pirates and Redruth, McKay says he had an "80 per cent winning record". He won the National Trophy with the Pirates at Twickenham. Who knows, he might even have been Lancaster's assistant now had he not returned home to the Queensland Reds in 2009, helping them win the Super 15 in 2011, before he followed his Queensland boss Ewen McKenzie into the post-Robbie Deans set-up with Australia in August this year.

"I admire the English for their resilience," says McKay, "the pragmatism of the set-piece, the academy system, the way they're hardened by promotion and relegation and the cups, and they play a higher volume of games."

While at Leicester he coached the academy team to win the National Sevens, with Manu Tuilagi scoring three tries in the final against Saracens and George Ford playing too. Is it good news for Australia that Tuilagi is injured? "I would have thought so, yes," said McKay. "He's a tremendous player. He used to play on the wing and I saw that he'd make an ideal centre."

Deans bit the dust after July's emphatic loss in the third and deciding Test with the Lions. A big win away to Argentina and last weekend's 41-33 loss to the All Blacks in Dunedin – a record Wallaby score in New Zealand – are regarded as decent-sized steps on the road to recovery. A pay deal last week appears to have settled some off-field ructions.

When McKay last faced Lancaster – the Pirates versus Leeds three times in 2006-07 – both claimed a win by one point and a draw. Next Saturday's decider will be on a grander stage. James O'Connor, the talented back sacked from his Wallaby contract for non-rugby incidents, will not be there. But another maverick, the Queensland fly-half Quade Cooper, certainly will.

"There's fences around in a team culture and if you jump those fences, there's consequences," McKay says of O'Connor, who may be joining an English club. "It is a shame but I believe he'll come back, as a better person and a better player."

And Cooper, whose goal-kicking and distribution were in good nick in Dunedin? "Quade has been doing some boxing and that's been helping," says McKay. "He's becoming a fine young gentleman, shall we say. I speak to him in boxing terms. Boxing's 15 rounds and rugby's 80 minutes. In boxing you can't afford a mistake, you leave yourself vulnerable, and it's the same with rugby – for the team, there are consequences. Cause and effect, the front foot and the back foot, wearing the opposition down. And knowing the time to pick to go for the knockout punch."

McKay says it is an Australian's nature to be innovative. His reputation is for daring attack and the Wallabies will pick two playmakers from Cooper, Matt Toomua, Bernard Foley and Christian Lealiifano in the 10 and 12 positions, with Israel Folau as a prime weapon at full-back.

"We don't have the playing resources of England or the physicality of the South Africans," says McKay. "We have to play with courage, we have to pride ourselves on having a go and we have to be a smart team as well.

"I know Andy Farrell – he was at Wigan when I coached Orrell – and I've got a lot of respect for the defence he's given England. We need to ask questions of them."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us