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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
New Zealand want to cull third Bledisloe Test
Greg Growden
August 30, 2013
New Zealand believes increasingly that Australia cannot challenge Aaron Smith and the All Blacks © Getty Images
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New Zealand is taking enormous delight in the Wallabies' decade-long attack of the Bledisloe Cup stumbles. It's not just the supporters. The All Blacks and the New Zealand Rugby Union are also reveling in the endless failures of their respective counterparts in the playing and administrative areas. The relationship between the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) - once reasonable - is now far from pally, with Kiwi officials chortling at some of their counterparts' recent off-field gaffes. And now the All Blacks players are applying the knife to the Wallabies. Our Australian team spy tells us that a high-profile All Blacks player told a senior Wallabies rival after the Wellington triumph that "the powers are looking at culling the third Bledisloe Cup match each year as Australia are close to being considered second tier". We're told the Wallabies player was "devastated" by that remark, which was apparently serious.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word …

The ARU can only be applauded for attempting to stamp out homophobia and discrimination in the game with its inclusion policy. They should go an extra step and lecture one of their own officials about keeping his mouth shut, and being more open-minded about the duties of the press. This notable ARU official made a complete fool of himself at a recent Sydney rugby luncheon when at the bar he described sports journalists as "wannabe Fleet Street @#%$s". This "mediaphobic" outburst from someone clearly struggling to handle the pressure prompted an angry sponsor, who was standing nearby with his wife, to ask the official to apologise to his wife. The official became even more indignant. A peace offering was made a few days later, with our snouts saying the sponsor and his wife were offered, via another ARU official, a trip to Perth to watch the Wallabies play Argentina. The offer was knocked back.

Greg Growden gives thanks for Israel Folau's decision to stay in rugby union
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Michael Cheika, take a bow

Michael Cheika remains in the New South Wales Waratahs head coaching job, but our Moore Park spies are adamant that he has confided to a senior assistant that he is now "50-50" to leave as he is tired of waiting for promised improvements in the Waratahs administrative ranks to occur. Cheika has no confidence in two leading Waratahs officials. But Cheika could be convinced to stay in the knowledge that his persistent work proved successful in ensuring Israel Folau remained in rugby. This was not easy, with rugby league pushing hard for Folau to return to the 13-man code. Cheika should be at the front of the queue when the backslapping starts among those claiming they were instrumental in seeing Folau remain with the Waratahs and Wallabies for the next two years; his involvement was crucial.

The importance of being rested

The consensus across the ditch is that Australia have suffered the effects of Will Genia playing full matches week in week out. Genia's Wellington performance was well below his usual high standard, prompting numerous New Zealand observers to query whether he is jaded and in need of a rest. Genia has become accustomed to playing virtually the full match for both the Wallabies and Queensland Reds; that's not surprising for someone who, when at his prime, can transform the game. But now the pressure is intensifying for the back-up halfback to get more time. Don't be surprised if Wallabies back-up No.9 Nic White is on the field for a substantial period during the next Test against South Africa in Brisbane. Stephen Moore may also be suffering the same fatigue problem. When Tatafu Polota-Nau is around, he and Moore are each used as impact performers, usually playing 40 minutes each. But Moore has been close to a one-man band with Polota-Nau injured, because the Wallabies have been giving back-up Saia Fainga'a only fleeting appearances at the end of Test matches.

Has Will Genia played too much rugby? © Getty Images
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The grandmother of Australian rugby

The godfather of Australian rugby journalism, Jonathan B Geddes, has revealed that Lisa Fiaola is about to become the grandmother of Australian rugby. Geddes, writing in the Manly Daily, said that the Warringah Ratettes centre had learned in the days leading up to Saturday's women's rugby grand final that her daughter Taela was due to give birth in February. Fiaola, 42, is an extraordinary player, even once playing on the wing with the fifth-grade Warringah men's team. She is a dual international, having represented Australia in rugby union and rugby league.

Rumours of the Week

The ARU announced this week that three board members were departing - George Gregan, John Mumm and Peter Cosgrove - over the next five months. Paul McLean and Cameron Clyne will fill two of the vacancies, with strong word that Greg Harris, currently in charge of the Rugby Union Players Association, is the favoured candidate to claim the third.

While the relationship between two Wallabies is somewhat tense due to a love interest, there have also been rumblings over the "Tattooed Wiggle" nickname used during recent training sessions. Did it really lead to a quickly removed social media exchange between Test teammates? And another Wallabies star who has endured more than his fair share of off-field problems could find himself in trouble over an altercation with a party-loving female at a Bondi nightspot.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
News or rumours to share? Contact Greg on Twitter @GregGrowden using the #RucknMaul hashtag.
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