Australia suspend players after Dublin drinking binge
November 18, 2013
Ewen McKenzie says "the easiest thing in this situation is to do nothing ... but to do nothing will give us mediocrity" © Getty Images
Australia have suspended six players and sanctioned nine more for excessive drinking in Dublin last Tuesday.
Nick Cummins, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson and Liam Gill will be unavailable to play against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday. Paddy Ryan will be included before serving his ban the following week, when Australia are due to face Wales, only because the Wallabies are required to have a minimum number of props in the squad for the game.
Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Saia Fainga'a, Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps have been given written sanctions, while Scott Fardy, Mike Harris, Ben McCalman and Nic White have been verbally reprimanded.
"Let's be clear," Australia coach Ewan McKenzie said. "These are internal sanctions and aren't a result of any complaints or reports of inappropriate or sinister behaviour while our players were out. Instead, we have chosen to address an issue that has come up internally and we are now being upfront about it. We've done this because we need to continually reinforce the need for our players to make smart decisions to benefit the team.
"The worst thing you could do for the Wallabies in the long-term is do nothing, because that would mean we would be ignoring poor culture and a significant performance issue. I'm disappointed on a personal level, but firm action is the best outcome when presented with a scenario like this. You need to deal with issues to ensure everyone can be accountable for their actions."
McKenzie said the players suspended had played against Ireland only because he had "spent all Thursday and Friday establishing the facts and details".
"I tried to work out where I would go," he said. "I delayed the decision because I had so many people to speak to. In this process I have got to be fair and just, I believe we have been. If I could have acted quicker, I would have. This sort of stuff is a massive distraction, I have spent far too long on this."
The players went out in separate groups for dinner, and some then decided to carry on at other bars, not returning to the team hotel until the early hours of Wednesday morning.
McKenzie said there were no public complaints made about their behaviour during the night, but expressed frustration with the wayward players after having spoken to them about off-field expectations the week before they arrived in Dublin.
"I am disappointed in all of them, I don't think I've lacked clarity," McKenzie said. "I made it clear to individuals about what is acceptable. It was a bad night for us, a bunch of bad decisions were made.
"The guys can have a glass of wine with dinner, that's always been the case. Some players made the decision the dinner would go on a lot longer, and involve a few more drinks."
Even without the suspended players, Australia should easily dispose of a poor Scotland side who were completely outclassed by South Africa on Sunday. But McKenzie was not going to use that as a fallback.
"There's no doubt having talented players unavailable will put this team under significant pressure, but we won't be using this situation as an excuse. For us, this is a great opportunity to circle the wagons and re-calibrate our behaviours to get back on track off the field."
Ewen McKenzie has the full backing of Australian Rugby Union chief executive Bill Pulver
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