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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
Wallaboys still not men under Ewen McKenzie
Greg Growden
September 13, 2013
Australia coach Ewen McKenzie speaks to the media in Sydney, August 5, 2013
Ewen McKenzie is fighting fires on many fronts © Getty Images
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Amid controversial selections and three upfront Test losses, Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie is also discovering he does not have the full support of every Australian Super Rugby coach. Two notable provincial coaches are making it known they are unimpressed with several of his decisions, including squad choices. There also appears to be a level of jealousy over how McKenzie, for some time on the outer at the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), came from left field to replace Robbie Deans as Test coach. In the background, there remains problems with the behaviour of some Wallabies. McKenzie has been stressing that behaviour will have to improve, but the situation is not helped when a high-ranking ARU official defended two players, sighted in a bar shortly before midnight the night before the Springboks Test in Brisbane, by saying during a heated post-match exchange the pair were "only boys having fun".

Please, will someone agree to pay Israel Folau?

The Israel Folau re-signing saga continues. Despite signing with Australia and New South Wales Waratahs for two years, Folau's connections have been heard saying "money had better come soon". Folau is understood to have a get-out clause, and he will walk if certain third-party deals do not eventuate. There are also rumblings that Waratahs coach Michael Cheika will also walk if the money fails to appear. Cheika has done everything he can to attract then keep Folau, but he is running out of patience with officials who have made promises but failed to deliver. Not helping the Cheika situation is the fact that a high-profile NSW official is persistently criticising the head coach in public.

Have you been keeping track of the chapters and verses of the Israel Folau saga? © Getty Images
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What are they smoking at the ARU?

The loony ideas keep emerging from St Leonards, with the latest wacky push revolving around demands that club teams stop paying players if funding from head office is not to be cut. Also they want to prevent contracted players from returning to their Sydney and Brisbane clubs during the season. Then there's been another about-turn on the importance of academies. What is going on at HQ? Really, how do ARU officials think they can police clubs to see if they're paying players or not? And what is wrong with paying club players anyway? Payments at least keeps some in the code and stops them drifting to rugby league. Already we know of notable club players heading to the Subbies because there is better money on offer. And the complaint from many - that the abandonment of payments will only enhance the opportunity for clubs such as Sydney University to get all the talent - is justified, as the Students can provide different enticements, such as scholarships. It is also clear the ARU is bending over for the minor provinces, which see their players involved in their local club competitions that are hardly cutting edge missing out on being part of a strong club premiership in Sydney or Brisbane. No wonder Australian rugby is drifting down the international ladder.

ARU stirring a hornet's nest in Sydney

Ruck'n Maul: you can't make this up?
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The Sydney club scene is certainly a hornet's nest, with the threat of major funding cuts prompting a push for just two grade teams and one colts side per club. There is even a concerted drive that each club has to field a women's sevens team. Woop. Woop. Woop.

Dumb and dumberer ideas

While on dumb ideas, please, please, please, SANZAR, don't pursue the idea of more player interviews at half-time of Super Rugby matches. The mail is that southern hemisphere broadcasters want to get the views of more players as they trek off the field. Don't they understand this is excruciating for the viewer? Insightful? Hardly. Just plain dribble. The players are usually out of breath, distracted, and don't make any sense; only succeeding in spitting all over the interviewer. It is pointless.

George Clancy simply does not understand chaos theory

Those who listened to SportsEars during the Brisbane Test were amazed at the barrage of advice referee George Clancy received. One listener, known to all in the rugby world as "Pinky", described it as "Chaos Theory" as Clancy was bombarded constantly with directions from the touch judges, both front-rows, Jean de Villiers and Will Genia throughout the game. As Pinky said: "The players played the referee off a break." No wonder there were some strange decisions.

Rumours of the Week

David Nucifora: We hear former Wallabies player, Auckland coach and Wallabies assistant coach David Nucifora was for a while the preferred candidate for the Australian Women's Sevens coach, before a bizarre about-turn by the ARU. A high-ranking ARU official 'went to water' over his proposed appointment. Someone on the ARU board is clearly pulling the strings.

Swings and roundabouts: A groovy North Shore drinking hole has become the place for some tense scenes involving former Wallabies players, barmen and claims of nefarious behavior involving their partners. Swings and roundabouts … if you know what I mean.

Julia, Julia, who art thou, Julia? The Wallabies players have lost patience with one publicity-seeking ARU official. They now call him "Julia", as in a former Prime Minister who lasted just one term before being dumped. The players are hoping the same happens to this ARU official.

James, oh James, oh James O'Connor: Michael Lynagh was not alone in being unimpressed with James O'Connor's supposedly happy demeanour while chatting to Springboks opponents after the Brisbane loss. Apparently it also sent some of O'Connor's teammates into a tailspin.

Al Baxter, Mamil … Who is the next Wallabies player to follow Simon Poidevin and Warwick Waugh in turning into a cycling obsessive? We hear the legendary Al "The Fuse" Baxter is being kitted out this weekend to join the illustrious Eastern Suburbs Cycling Club. Beware! The Fuse could be sighted next week spinning out of control around Centennial Park.


Follow live text commentary of the Test between Australia and Argentina on Saturday, September 14, from 730pm (AEST), 930am (GMT)

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