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Greg Growden
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After more than 30 years with The Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax Media in Australia, Greg Growden now writes exclusively online for ESPNscrum. Never afraid to step on toes, you can expect plenty of compelling insight from one of Australia's most renowned rugby writers.
Ruck'n Maul
Lions adopting siege mentality
Greg Growden
June 6, 2013
Lions tour manager Andy Irvine smiles for the cameras, 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour to Australia press conference, London, England, October 18, 2010
Andy Irvine is unhappy with the Lions' tour schedule © Getty Images
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It hasn't taken long for the British & Irish Lions to play the "Hard Luck Hal" card, and for the media pack following them to rip into the Australian provinces for picking sub-standard opposition. Lions manager Andy Irvine has also complained to the British media about the "ridiculous" tour schedule and pressures on his players due to the late kick-off times in Australia. Irvine said it was hard for the players to socialise when they're often still at the ground at midnight. "If you kick off at three o'clock you can go out and have a couple of beers at eight or nine o'clock," Irvine said. "That's what happened in South Africa and it worked out fine. But it's a different story if you're going out at one o'clock in the morning." Then again, this could work in the Lions' favour as there's less chance of atrocities because most places will be shut by the time the tourists want to go out for a drink.

Several former Lions players, meanwhile, have been carrying on about the team's biggest enemy being the Australian media, and how everyone in the press over here is devoted to undermining the tourists. Some have even suggested that we should have ignored their moronic comments and antics on previous tours. So expect yet another siege mentality tour, with the blame directed everywhere but at themselves. We've also been told that numerous local officials are "tearing their hair out" over the Lions being so particular over the use of certain images, even to quibbling over the size of insignia. Reminds us of a notable Australian Rugby Union (ARU) official, now long gone, who said the highlight of the 2001 Lions tour was when they left.

Happy Families? More like Family Feuds

Greg Growden has the best rugby gossip
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Australian rugby, especially with the British & Irish Lions in town, wants to convince all it is one big happy family. Reality is different. There is discontent involving the ARU and at least two prominent Super Rugby provinces over Wallabies training camps, Australian Sevens selections and, now, proposed funding cuts. Numerous provincial officials have been made aware the money flow from the ARU, which is desperately trying to cut costs, is likely to be reduced dramatically. Adding concern is the fact that one province is aware an ARU powerbroker suggested to a board member that they should get rid of the province's chief executive officer and replace him with a close friend of the powerbroker. We've also been told grade premiership clubs should feel very nervous because the already dwindling money flow from the powers above could become even more of a drip, drip, drip. There will be repercussions.

Sydney-Melbourne relations souring further

The sighting of someone who looked mysteriously like New South Wales Waratahs coach Michael Cheika talking to Kurtley Beale following the Sydney University-Randwick Shute Shield match last weekend didn't go down well with one New South Wales official. Melbourne Rebels officials are understandably edgy, and the eager efforts of a few in the Waratahs' head office to improve the relationship with their Melbourne counterparts are not working. The announcement that James O'Connor has linked with the West Harbour grade club for three years won't help the ever-growing friction between the Rebels and the Waratahs.

Who didn't the Bulldogs want?

Interesting to see the list of rugby identities - including several chief executives - who were on the short list but missed out of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs NRL CEO's job. Another provincial rugby CEO is not making it widely known that he failed once again to make the short list. Wouldn't look good on his CV.

Gaffe of the week

One NSW Rugby Union official approached Sydney grade clubs to see if they had any players available to help out with a promotion sponsored by a beer company. Several clubs quickly pointed out that the union was sponsored by an opposition brewery. Not surprisingly the idea was dropped. An email was hastily sent to the clubs, saying in part: "Thanks for your feedback and responses. As has now been pointed out to me several times, this is probably not my best call, given our relationship with CUB!"

Rumours of the week

Who is the provincial media spin doctor known as "The Fifteen Minute Amendment" because of error-ridden emails requiring corrections, which are usually sent out 15 minutes later? Who is the ARU staff member who doesn't want it known he was once a model? Are the Waratahs, who have already lost HSBC as their major sponsor, under threat of another key sponsor saying "bye-bye"? Which Australian provincial coach is known as "Kramer" following some strange schizophrenic rants? No wonder two forwards are pleading to be released. And which two Australian provinces feature a relationship between the head coach and the CEO described as "toxic".

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