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Greg Growden
Greg Growden | Columnist Index
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.
Greg Growden writes ...
Robbies Deans seeks 'fawns, acolytes'
Greg Growden
June 10, 2013

The "Three Amigos" have officially been disbanded. The "toxic" quote has ultimately led to Quade Cooper's downfall, and the Wallabies head into the Test series against the British & Irish Lions with a coach delighted and relieved to be surrounded by disciples and "yes" men. The clue that Cooper was finished and Kurtley Beale was going to get the charmed inside run into the Wallabies squad - through just one Shute Shield club performance - was there for all to see weeks ago.

For Cooper, missing the original 25-man Wallabies squad was a strong indicator that he was no longer wanted by the head coach; Robbie Deans likes true believers, and, despite the persistent denials, Cooper last year publicly complaining about the Wallabies environment effectively put the player's head in the noose. From then on, Cooper would have had to perform like Daniel Carter to get back on side with Deans. As Cooper is not like Carter - being more unpredictable, flashy and prone to behavioural swings - that was not going to happen. Despite the Lions rating Cooper the most dangerous of attacking forces, the underlying concern was that he could have been a destabilising influence at the Wallabies training camp. Cooper can be hard to control.

Also not helping Cooper is the fact that Deans is so attached to Beale in spite of the player's perennial off-field problems. When Beale entered into his alcoholic rehabilitation course, the assumption was that he would not be sighted for months. But it was soon clear the Wallabies hierarchy were focused on having Beale back right in time for the Lions series. Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver's odd and debatable comment that Beale was "a national treasure" made it blatantly obvious the player was still part of the Deans "inner sanctum" despite the endless problems he had caused - especially after losing the plot on Melbourne Rebels' trip through South Africa. So there was no great shock when Beale, even though not a member of the squad, suddenly appeared at Wallabies training sessions in Sydney. From that moment, it didn't really matter what Cooper did on the football field, Fred Flintstone was more of a chance of being called in as a back-up pivot.

 
If they were thinking outside the square ... they would opt against beckoning a player, but instead call in someone who would actually gave them an edge - Ewen McKenzie - to provide the required tactics to unnerve the Lions
 

Sure, Beale is a talent; but he is pampered. And now Deans will be praying that Beale can pay him back. So don't be surprised if Beale appears in the No.10 jersey in the first Test against the Lions, or if he and James O'Connor are given an open rein to flit between the pivot and fullback positions. After all, one of Deans' stock phrases is that "it doesn't matter what the number is on your back".

For the final six spots to the training squad, Deans will go for the usual suspects and ignore several who would provide much needed vibrancy and unpredictability to the group. The arrival of Brumbies prop Scott Sio at the Wallabies camp on the Sunshine Coast is encouraging, while the inclusion of Luke Burgess as the third half-back (following Nic White's injury) is logical.

But if Peter Kimlin is preferred to Hugh McMeniman, an opportunity to bring much needed menace to the Wallabies pack- seriously lacking due to Scott Higginbotham's unavailability- has been wasted. Kimlin is an effective forward, but his involvement won't see the Lions suffering sleepless nights. McMeniman would lead to tourist insomnia, because his nickname, "Madness", gives a few hints to his aggressive approach. As soon as George Smith is fit, he must be included. If not, Beau Robinson is the ideal alternative to really stir the Lions up. It would also be rousing if Kyle Godwin were involved; and yes, despite his faults, I would have Cooper there.

Tom Hamilton and Alex Broun review the classic Reds-Lions fixtures
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As for the 31st spot, the Wallabies, if they were thinking outside the square (and, no, that's not their usual course), they would opt against beckoning a player, but instead call in someone who would actually gave them an edge - Ewen McKenzie - to provide the required tactics to unnerve the Lions.

The Reds coach and his encouragement of his players to trust their instincts was a prime reason why the Queensland-Lions match was so invigorating. If the Reds had been at full strength (how sad was it seeing James Horwill, Will Genia, Liam Gill, Rob Simmons, Saia Faingaa and co mere observers), the Lions tour would now probably be in a serious tailspin due to a loss. McKenzie knows the importance of surprise. He also knows what is required to get the audience on your side. It also should be remembered that McKenzie was part of the Wallabies coaching staff when the Lions were last here, and had a considerable role in the home team's series triumph. Just ask the 2001 Wallabies.

The Reds-Lions fixture was riveting for the game plan of Ewen McKenzie and Quade Cooper (video available only in Australia)
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