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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
Wallabies might soon be able to buy caps with euros
Greg Growden
June 13, 2014
Ruck'n Maul: Wallabies in a good place

The pressure on the Australian Rugby Union to relax its policy of overlooking overseas-based players for Test selection is intensifying. As cashed-up European and Japanese clubs make irresistible offers to numerous leading Australian players, with the latest French targets being Israel Folau and Will Genia, the union is in serious danger of losing key players. Australia, which is not exactly overflowing with talent, could easily use numerous players currently performing well in Europe to bolster their stocks at a Rugby World Cup being staged in the northern hemisphere next year. It could also solve a major problem area. Top-rate tight-head props are as rare in Australian rugby as Bledisloe Cup series wins, as shown in the second half of the France Test in Brisbane when the usual Wallabies scrum dramas re-emerged. But there are alternatives.

Will Genia plays his 100th match for Queensland, Queensland Reds v Highlanders, Super Rugby, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, May 30, 2014
Will Genia is reportedly a target for Lyon © Getty Images
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One Australian prop excelling overseas is Salesi Ma'afu, currently plying his trade at Northampton. And Ma'afu, who recently became an internet star after an Aviva premiership semi-final stoush with Leicester's Tom Youngs, apart from an effective left-right punching combination wants to show the Wallabies what he has learned in an environment focused on scrummaging. It all revolves around the ARU softening its stance. Ma'afu told Ruggamatrix this week: "I would love to come back and play for Australia. If Link [Ewen McKenzie] gave me a call, I'd pack my bags straight away and head back." Ma'afu is not alone.

Campo berates Ruck'n Maul - not for the first time

 
Which Wallabies star turns legs to jelly?
 

David Campese is another Wallabies star now living overseas. He travelled from Durban to Sydney this week for a bit of business, several rollicking "take no prisoners" speeches, and to berate Ruck'n Maul on various issues. Amidst the sledges, he did provide one gem: that he may have at last played his last game of rugby. "Have a guess where my last game was," 52-year-old Campese bellowed down the phone. "In Athens last weekend in a Sevens match, and I actually tackled a player." The big question is: can any other Wallabies claim their farewell game was in Greece? Your time starts now …

South Africa want a seventh Super Rugby team

South Africa are pushing hard for a sixth team in an expanded Super Rugby competition. But our SANZAR snouts now say they even want a seventh team based in Eastern Transvaal. This is unlikely to succeed, with more interest in applications from Japan and Singapore. There is also uncertainty whether the tournament will actually be expanded to 18 teams. Broadcaster interest remains lukewarm.

Didier put up his dukes

The past few weeks have been momentous for sons of former Wallabies. While Sam Carter, the son of former back-rower David Carter, excelled in his first Test, the Didier name has re-emerged. Duke Didier, son of legendary Brumbies and Wallabies prop Geoff Didier, has made the Australian Commonwealth Games judo team that will shortly head to Glasgow. Duke is also eager to make his name in the wild, wild world of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Inspiration …

You might have missed it this week, but the National Geo Wild pay-TV channel on Foxtel is currently airing the infamous Honey Badger documentary from which a certain Wallabies winger got his inspiration. The show next airs on June 14

Customer is king

Australian Rugby Union (ARU) officials don't have to be reminded that the first Wallabies-France international, which lured 33,718 spectators, boasted the lowest rugby Test crowd at Suncorp Stadium since the ground's redevelopment. And the Test figure in Melbourne this weekend is expected to be well short of capacity. The union are pinning their hopes on a Saturday afternoon Test in Sydney working, and that interest picks up for the Rugby Championship, with a vain hope that the Wallabies may at last push the All Blacks, who looked way off colour in the first Test against England. But it appears some diehard Wallabies fans are starting to lose patience. Our St Leonards snouts tell us that leading ARU officials have disenchanted supporters attempting to get details on how to purchase tickets for the 2015 World Cup. One ARU official has been telling fans that he cannot help them unless they take a union-sanctioned tour. Terrific public relations.

Whispers of the Week

- One very well known club coach, a notable representative player not that long ago, is under threat of being punted. Embarrassing losses have piled up, and the players have had enough of his antics. The players claim the coach berated them in the dressing rooms for an hour after a loss last season; yes, an hour.

- What's this about two very high-profile commentators having a spat because one thinks the other is hogging the spotlight?

- One under-performing Australian provincial official could be smarter when he decides to go for a long lunch and then opts to openly criticise his head coach as well as make disparaging personal remarks about the coach's assistant. One disgusted business identity who heard the rant asked to be moved to a table well away from the official. It didn't help that the official tripped when he left the restaurant, smashing a tray of glasses.

- The father of a well-known Australia player, nicknamed "The Pest" by a provincial coach, keeps causing problems. We've heard there was a heated exchange involving Wallabies officials and the Pest in Brisbane.

- One Wallabies player has had the mickey taken out of him at training this week. It followed the player being told after the Brisbane Test by a high-ranking ARU official that he "turned to jelly" whenever he saw the star take off in the game with ball in hand. Team-mates are now wobbling at training whenever the player comes near them.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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