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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.
Ruck'n Maul
James Horwill fiasco was northern power play
Greg Growden
July 5, 2013
A relaxed - and relieved - James Horwill faces the media after being cleared of stamping by an independent hearing, Sydney, July 2, 2013
James Horwill was a relieved man this week © Getty Images
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The International Rugby Board (IRB) look complete fools after the James Horwill judiciary fiasco, and Australian Rugby Union (ARU) officials have every right to query the process. Nonetheless our worldly contacts are adamant that Horwill had to front the IRB judiciary - twice - as the direct result of two IRB officials "wanting to let their Australian counterparts know how the game is played at the IRB level, and who actually holds the power". The whole messy affair begs the question whether Australia, once a considerable force at the IRB, still holds any clout within the organisation. It will also be interesting to see how the IRB reacts to pointed comments about its judicial system from ARU chief Bill Pulver. The IRB is not renowned for taking kindly to criticism.

Just who will coach the Wallabies?

ARU officials have stated that Robbie Deans is safe no matter what happens in the third Tom Richards Cup Test against the British & Irish Lions, but it's funny that one notable official, with a lot of sway at St Leonards, is asking whomever he bumps into who should be the next Wallabies coach. This includes several notable former Wallabies, who have stressed to the official that the next coach must be an Australian.

Remember the role of the media

 
Two Australian provincial coaches were recently astounded to see the Wallabies training routine, which involves plenty of rest because the players are "beginning to tire mentally".
 

The Wallabies are getting serious, with training sessions again off limits except for a few minutes when the media can watch the players go through a boring set of exercises. Robbie Deans wasn't too bothered about who attended his training sessions in the early years of his reign, including the media, and everyone could stay from start to finish. The argument was that nothing in this video age is a secret. In recent times, the Wallabies have become far more finicky. Nowadays, the media are given only limited training access - a few minutes at the start - so no wonder most don't bother attending. Also the press is none too impressed with the latest craze of very early morning Wallabies media conferences. It now appears breakfast time is the norm, with one Wallabies staff member even wanting to make it as early as 7am. As irritating are Australian players making contrived spoon-fed statements whenever they are in trouble. No wonder sections of the media were infuriated by the attitude of James O'Connor when he tried to explain that his and Kurtley Beale's 4am fast food adventure had not affected their preparation for the second Test, and then attempted to change subjects. Media patience is certainly wearing thin, and they will bite back if messed around too often. Not smart in a country where rugby needs all the publicity it can get.

Relationship counselling ...

Our Wallabies snouts tell us the attitude of several of the young guns in recent weeks hasn't delighted numerous senior players. Two well-known forwards have made it known to their teammates that "enough is enough". But even more explosive is the fractious relationship between an Australian provincial coach and the organisation's chief executive that is now at an all-time low. It hasn't been helped by the CEO alleging that the coach is "leaking information". The coach is understandably furious, and there is bound to be only one survivor. My money is on the coach. Also two Australian provincial coaches were recently astounded to see the Wallabies training routine, which involves plenty of rest because the players are "beginning to tire mentally".

Greg Growden previews the third Test

Lions nameless and faceless

The Lions tour has been a raging success, but their players are far from household names in Australia - as shown when they recently visited Sydney Grammar. Our Lions snout Sir Larry said that a team official handed out prizes after the tourists had run a coaching clinic at the school. "Who can tell me the name of one of the Lions players?" said the official. A hand shot up from one of the young players: "Jonathan Brown" he said, a huge smile on his face. Not quite the answer the official wanted. He resorted to pointing at the players present, but that didn't help. Stunned silence. "What about first names?" he finally added. He pointed at Matt Stevens and still no response. "M - a " he eventually started spelling, until at last there was a chorus of "Matt" to stop the player's and official's agony.

Folau not heading to University

There were some interesting comments made by New South Wales Rugby Union (NSWRU) chairman Nick Farr-Jones in the latest issue of Rugby News, the Sydney club program. Asked if NSWRU should direct Waratahs and Wallabies to play for a particular club, rather than having someone like Israel Folau appearing for the ultra-strong Sydney University team, Farr-Jones replied: "Discussions are happening about that at the moment. Basically Folau should not be playing for University … and that's a former University player saying that. It's not to say that University should not assist him in furthering his education if that's the way he wants to go." And clubs should prepare themselves for a revamped premiership competition. Farr-Jones said the Shute Shield could be restructured in the "very near future". Discussion has involved the NSWRU and club presidents. "I won't forecast the outcome but we could well finish up with 10 clubs in the premiership competition," Farr-Jones said. Suddenly two premiership clubs are very nervous.

Where will Israel Folau play his Shute Shield rugby in Sydney? © Getty Images
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