Suck it up, Ewen McKenzie tells 'Dublin Six'
November 22, 2013
Booze ban a defining moment, Greg Growden tells Russell Barwick%]
Ewen McKenzie has demanded his banished players suck up their disappointment as Australia prepare for one of their "greatest challenges" at Murrayfield.
Bans handed to the "Dublin Six", combined with a tour-ending injury to Matt Toomua and suspension to Tevita Kuridrani, have seen the Wallabies name a patched-up backline against Scotland at the end of a tumultuous week. They are missing the entire three-quarters division that starred in the 32-15 win over Ireland at Aviva Stadium, forcing McKenzie to manufacture playmaker Christian Leali'ifano into an outside centre. Leali'ifano, normally a No.12, has been selected to partner New Zealand-born Mike Harris in a makeshift midfield combination with Joe Tomane on one wing and rookie Chris Feauai-Sautia making his run-on debut on the other.
The changes and the drama surrounding the decision to stand down six players and warn nine others for their late-night drinking session in Dublin means the Murrayfield Test looms as a pivotal moment in McKenzie's reign.
"It will be one of our greatest challenges, given we have a bunch of changes," he said. "The guys are going to be hungry for different reasons, so if you don't get the best out of them now I don't know when you will. This is a test of character for everyone, for all of us, the coaches, the whole lot. It will be an important moment."
The fallout of the team sanctions, which have been criticised by the Rugby Union Players Association, has rubbed extra salt into the wounds of banned players. But McKenzie has told the disappointed players - Adam Ashley-Cooper, Nick Cummins, Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Liam Gill and Paddy Ryan - to get back on the horse.
"I'm sure plenty of guys will wish they could have their time again, but that's the spent arrow, it's gone," he said. "Nothing's going to change so we have to suck it up and get going. What we can change is how we function as a group so we'll pull together. You circle the wagons and get on with it."
McKenzie said that he considered briefly calling in France-based forwards Peter Kimlin and Dan Palmer to bolster his squad, but he did not do so because of their lack of recent match experience.
The Wallabies are most struggling for troops out wide, but the coach ruled Digby Ioane and Drew Mitchell, also playing in France, as ineligible because they chose to head overseas when they were still wanted, unlike Brumbies duo Kimlin and Palmer.
The threadbare depth left in the backline stocks is shown by third-string scrum-half Nick Phipps' selection on the bench as a back-up winger.
Toomua's hamstring strain couldn't have been more untimely, especially with Kuridrani slugged with a five-week suspension for his tip tackle on Irish flanker Peter O'Mahony.
McKenzie felt Kuridrani was treated harshly, hinting at inconsistencies within sentencing from previous cases, but he have opted not to appeal against the ban. He is yet to decide whether the Brumbies centre will stay on their European tour until it ends in Cardiff next week.
Wallabies: Israel Folau; Joe Tomane, Christian Leali'ifano, Mike Harris, Chris Feauai-Sautia; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Ben Mowen (captain), Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy; James Horwill, Rob Simmons; Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore, James Slipper. Replacements: Saia Fainga'a, Ben Alexander, Paddy Ryan, Sitaleki Timani, Ben McCalman, Nic White, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley.
As Scotland decides its future, Scrum Sevens looks at a group of players who transcended rugby both for country and the British & Irish Lions
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup