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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
All White on the night for Wallabies?
Greg Growden
June 21, 2013
The Brumbies' Jake White before Super Rugby round two, Melbourne Rebels v Brumbies, Super Rugby, AAMI Park, Melbourne, February 22, 2013
Jake White has the look of a schoolmaster that some ARU officials prefer. © Getty Images
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The gentle prod for Jake White to be the next Wallabies coach has turned into a concerted push after the Brumbies' win over the British & Irish Lions during the week. Let's just say the Brumbies' triumph could not have been better timed for the Rugby World Cup 2007-winning coach.

While Ewen McKenzie surprisingly remains on the outer at the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), and Michael Cheika, the recent "flavour of the month", has his fervent supporters at the St Leonards bunker, so too does White. The mail is that the ARU, when they finally look for someone to take over from Robbie Deans, want a strong disciplinarian in charge of the Wallabies. White is known for taking a headmasterly approach to coaching, and that appeals to at least two influential ARU officials who will be involved in the appointment of the next Wallabies coach - whenever that may be.

Our snouts tell us that a high-ranking Wallabies team official was deeply worried when he sighted White a few days ago in the company of an ARU powerbroker in Canberra. Nonetheless, the Brumbies had plenty of motivation in beating the Lions; the players are reporting that White had told them that those selected against the Lions were playing for their contracts. Yet again the "cattle prodder" approach worked.

Quade subject of 'toxic' attack

Even if there is a glut of injuries during the Lions series, don't expect Quade Cooper to make a dramatic return to the Wallabies squad. Judging from the venomous comments made about Cooper by one Wallabies team official in Brisbane this week to several scribes, the Reds No.10 is no chance. Let's hope no passers-by heard these "toxic" comments.

Lions jumper a lovely bathrobe

 
"Is there a more boring way to spend time than watching three consecutive rugby league games?" Stephen Jones asks Greg Growden a question in Ruck'Maul on the Road in Canberra
 

It appears Lions fever is affecting the most unexpected quarters of Australian society, as witnessed by our intrepid snout, Sir Larry, when he was enjoying a peppermint tea in the foyer of the Lions hotel in Sydney last weekend. Lions prop Adam Jones was passing through the foyer minding his own business when a loud voice called out: "Jonesy, Jonesy, how about swapping a jersey?" The voice belonged to Socceroos star Tim Cahill. The Socceroos were staying in the same hotel ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Iraq. Jones looked a bit nonplussed, and mentioned something about going to Manly. But Cahill persisted. "Come on Jonesy, I'll meet you after lunch. We'll swap jerseys." Jones finally agreed. Sir Larry imagines Jones may have some trouble slipping into Cahill's slim jersey, whereas Cahill could use Jones's red shirt as a colourful bathrobe.

Conflicts of interest at HQ

Watch out for a former well-known provincial board member appointed to represent New South Wales and Queensland clubs, due to state concerns that the Australian Rugby Union is about to make dramatic funding cuts to grassroots rugby. The former board member involved is understood to be supportive of ARU boss Bill Pulver but has grown tired of what he perceives as "conflicts of interest" within the organisation and favouritism in filling some job vacancies. There are also concerns up north of an anti-Queensland feeling emanating from ARU HQ. Clubs have been rushing to declare they don't pay players as the ARU drip drip drips the idea of cutting club funding altogether. Remember Pulver did say in our recent ESPNscrum interview: "I am not really comfortable with player payments at club level and below. For example, in the Sydney competition last year, there was in excess $1 million paid in player payments. They've managed to get themselves in a situation where there were bidding wars, which is not in anyone's interest."

Fans give Lions free lessons in Strayan

Ruck'n Maul on the road: Stephen Jones tells Greg Growden he's in Australia on missionary work
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Lions half-back Conor Murray produced the best line of the first half of their tour when he was asked by R&M snout Sir Larry after the Reds match what was the chief difference playing in the northern and southern hemispheres. 'You get abused more," Murray replied. Asked to elaborate, Murray said the Lions were bombarded by insults as they warmed up before the Reds match - with most of what was said "too choice to repeat". "Put it this way, they don't hold back in letting you know what they thought of you. Some of the words they used I didn't even know existed."

Rumours of the week

A former high-ranking Waratahs official who hit the turps so hard at a recent Sydney club lunch that he tumbled through the bathroom door while Lions coach Warren Gatland was speaking? Gatland apparently had some interesting observations, including that playing the Reds at Suncorp Stadium was beneficial for several first-time tourists because it shed their fear about the ground. Is it true several that Western Force directors firmly believed their best players would confront the Lions and weren't overwhelmed when coach Michael Foley left some stars on the sideline? And what's this about some sordid off-field competitions involving the Lions?


What rugby rumours and gossip have you heard? Contact Greg Growden on Twitter @greggrowden to share your news.

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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.