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Queensland Reds coaching director Ewen McKenzie said Tuesday he will quit at the end of the Super Rugby season, with reports linking him to the Wallabies or Six Nations side Ireland.
McKenzie, who joined the Reds in 2009, guided the franchise to its first championship in 2011 in addition to back-to-back Australian conference titles and he is widely seen as one of the best coaches in the world.
He has long been touted as a potential successor to Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, who is contracted till the end of the year but could be axed early if they fail badly against the British and Irish Lions in June-July.
But ACT Brumbies coach Jake White is also seen as in contention and reports said that if the Wallabies job eludes McKenzie he will almost certainly be offered a head coaching position with a Six Nations side.
"Indeed, the worry for Australia is that another country, with Ireland the leading contender, will snap him up as head coach before the Wallabies position is even put up for grabs," The Australian newspaper's rugby writer Wayne Smith said.
McKenzie denied he had been approached by Ireland as a possible replacement for Declan Kidney after they finished second last in the Six Nations.
"You guys love conspiracy theories," he said of the speculation, but admitted he was ready to coach a national side.
He was in line for the Wallabies job in 2005 after Eddie Jones was dumped but did not consider himself ready for Test duty.
"It is seven years later. If I wasn't ready I wouldn't say I would be -- I am ready for the next level," he told reporters, but denied he was putting pressure on Deans.
"I don't think it will put pressure on Robbie Deans at all," McKenzie said.
"I don't think this will change anything in his day to day (life).
"I have made the decision because it is about doing the right thing by the Reds. I could have waited until August and said 'by the way I am leaving'."
Queensland Rugby chairman Rod McCall, who was responsible for the appointment of McKenzie, said his departure would be a huge loss.
"When Ewen joined us in late 2009 the Reds and Queensland Rugby were at a very low point," McCall said.
"Over the past four years, Ewen has not only been responsible for turning around the on field performances and attitude of the Queensland Reds, but he has also played an integral role in bringing success back into our organisation and to our wider code in Queensland."