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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
Beale pampered, Cooper rejected
Greg Growden
June 13, 2013
Randwick's Kurtley Beale impressed against Sydney University, Sydney University v Randwick, Shute Shield, University Oval No.1, Sydney, June 1, 2013
Kurtley Beale has been fast-tracked back into the Wallabies fold © Getty Images
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The Australian Rugby Union's (ARU) pampering of Kurtley Beale continues. While concerns remain over whether Beale, involved in an alcohol rehabilitation process, has been wrongly fast-tracked so he can play against the Lions, it was clear at Wallabies camp this week there's no point asking too many probing questions. Under Robbie Deans, the Wallabies know how to keep difficult customers away from the prying eyes of the media. They deliberately limit contact. Beale was wheeled out to the press during the week, and he seemed happy to talk about his recent problems. But it was clear Deans wasn't so enthusiastic. After several questions were directed at Beale about his off-field troubles, Deans chopped off the media inquisitors, by interjecting: "Let's concentrate on the football, here lads." Fine. But what is not acceptable is one Wallabies official privately telling some members of the media that Quade Cooper was no longer wanted. That can come back to really bite you.

Cheika making right noises

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika appears to be winning friends at the ARU. Several powerbrokers like his no-nonsense style, to the extent he is rapidly moving up the "Wallabies next coach" candidates list. Whether Cheika can work with some ARU officials remains to be seen.

And the winner is?

The Lions management hosted a quiz night in Perth with the travelling media, and some Australian ring-ins. The winning team was called Seddon's Heroes, named after the Lions' first captain who drowned in the Hunter River at Maitland on their first tour to Australia in 1888. On the team were renowned United Kingdom rugby scribes Stephen Jones, Steve Bale and Chris Hewett, Lions coach Warren Gatland and manager Andy Irvine, plus our ever reliable snout, Sir Larry. But the team embarrassingly got one question wrong: Who is the Lions all time top point scorer? After much discussion the team went for Jonny Wilkinson. The answer? Andy Irvine! This answer was suggested by some younger members of the team, but was hotly disputed, mainly by Irvine himself.

Sport and politics mixing in Brisbane

Sighted at the Lions' Brisbane hotel was a relaxed Federal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, having breakfast on the morning of the Reds match. But even more surprising was the sight of Lions coach Warren Gatland, sitting at the very next table. One wondered whether they were swapping tactics to beat their various opponents. Sir Larry was even tempted to snap a photo of the two together and wondered what it would be titled ... Saviours of their nations" or "Enemies of Australia"? Depends on which team, political or rugby, you support.

Russell Barwick and Greg Growden discuss the week's big rugby issues
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Rumblings at the ARU

The honeymoon period for new ARU boss Bill Pulver is over, and it is known one board director is questioning whether The Pulveriser's constant pledges and promises is the right option. Also causing concern at ARU HQ is a small team of unofficial advisers, with questions being raised by staff members over possible conflict of interests. Apparently "discussion groups" are all the go at the ARU. Major Australian provinces will continue applying pressure on the ARU over what they perceive is preferential treatment being handed to Melbourne Rebels and Western Force. Proposed funding cuts is causing dissent among the ranks and questions have been raised over the under-performing Australian Under-20 team at the Junior World Championship in France. At least there was one smart decision from ARU HQ this week. Releasing Bernard Foley and Matt Lucas from Australian Sevens duties so they could play for the Waratahs against the Lions was a wise move. It was also a victory for Waratahs coach Cheika.

'Invincible' Campese to tackle the Lions

David Campese, delighted to be one of the inaugural Inside Rugby Invincibles alongside Mark Ella, Col Windon and Ken Catchpole, has confirmed to Ruck N'Maul that, at the ripe age of 50, he will be playing in the Classic Wallabies-British & Irish Rugby Legends charity match at North Sydney Oval on July 4. "I'll be the policeman, saying 'come through, come through'", Campese said from South Africa, where he now lives.

Credit where it's due for Timmins

If anyone deserves proper recognition, it's the heart and soul of NSW Rugby, Robin Timmins. She has provided tireless service to the game, working in a variety of roles for the NSW Rugby Union for the past 44 years. So hearty congratulations for becoming the first woman to be handed a life membership of the NSWRU, and then this week receiving an Order of Australia (OAM). Robin was also Australia's first female referee.

The word around town

Rumours of the week: Nasty cross-border text messages after Waratahs five-eighth Bernard Foley changed his mind and opted not to go to the Rebels and stay in Sydney. We hear the incentive for Foley going to the Rebels was very attractive, and had backing at ARU level. Who is the Australian provincial coach who has effectively gagged everyone after a recent altercation with his CEO? Nonetheless, it appears the coach continues to have the support of the board. Force coach Michael Foley will also have to work hard to regain the faith of some of his players after resting them from the Lions match.

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