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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
ARU continues big brother ways
Greg Growden
March 15, 2013
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie celebrates winning the 2011 Super Rugby competition, Reds v Crusaders, Super Rugby Final, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia, July 9, 2011
Ewen McKenzie should be crowned the next Wallabies coach but politics may never see him anointed © Getty Images
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Certain Australian Rugby Union (ARU) officials are getting very precious if they are criticised. One agreed to do a Q&A session last week at a respectable Sydney club. Everything was just dandy, until a wag asked: "Now that Kenya beats us at the Sevens, can we expect to see a marathon winner in our team at the Olympics?" The questioner was soon moved to another area.

And our item last week explaining how the Australian provinces are unimpressed that the ARU have become all big brother, and want to control everything, put head office into a tizz. It has even prompted them to prove they are Big Brothers by forming a posse to find out whom the "ARU traitors" are. A black list has been formulated. One ARU official has even gone as far as demanding any contact with Reds coach Ewen McKenzie "must be noted and reported to him". Another is mischievously trying to divert blame onto certain members of the media by smearing their reputation when he is actually the one at fault. Pathetic stuff.

Lions face harsh preparation challenge
In case any more misguided Australian officials continue to talk hogwash by pushing the line that the British & Irish Lions will be better prepared than the Wallabies, there are several telling factors worth noting. The Lions will meet as a full party only the day after the Aviva and Rabo (Celtic League) finals in late May. These finals are expected to involve over half the touring squad and, according to our northern hemisphere colleagues, the games will be brutal. So there will be casualties. And these come just a week after the Heineken Cup final, which the Lions management is hoping will be between French teams. Also the Lions team playing a warm-up match in Hong Kong is bound not to include any of those involved in the previous week's finals. So it will be far from a Test line-up. As well, all the Lions will be involved with club football until they leave, with some never having formally met before heading down under.

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Lions camp better deliver
The relationship between Robbie Deans and the Australian provinces remains a bit icy. One province way out west has shown little eagerness towards allowing the Wallabies coaching staff to come to their training sessions. Two other Australian provincial coaches have made it known they will be the first to judge Deans if the Lions tour sacrifices - which includes allowing provincial players to be involved in a pre-tour camp - does not lead to a Wallabies series victory. Meanwhile, Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is not impressed with members of his squad whom he considers fit are arguing they need rest because of injuries. The Waratahs shake-up continues, and not before time.

Johnson keen to return home
The ARU hasn't exactly been on fire recently, but they could improve their public image if they used their brains and check out whether Scotland interim coach Scott Johnson is keen to return home. Johnson has done a great job during this year's Six Nations tournament, and our mail is that he would like to come back and live full-time in Australia. He is the great Australian coach who has unnecessarily been let go.

Lunchalot could be lunching less
An Australian Super Rugby chief executive is now known as "Sir Lunchalot" as he is hardly in the office. And all around him are major dramas, with their main sponsor about to walk. His connection with a dubious character, recently in the news for all the wrong reasons, is also causing alarm. The province's directors, concerned about numerous matters involving the CEO, are about to take action. Also two Australian officials, renowned for making bungle after bungle, are now known as "Statler" and "Waldorf" - the two balcony dwellers in The Muppet Show.

Soon to be over and out?
The latest on Radio, the notorious serial offending Australian official, is that a few days ago he took several players to a very suspect bar. Horrified, the players bolted, with one reporting the matter to higher authorities at the province. Two high-profile players have demanded action.

Waratahs crowd figures have been worse
Concerns over Waratahs home crowd figures dropping alarmingly, reminded us of the time NSW thrashed Manawatu in front of a few hundred in Sydney back in the 1980s. It prompted NSW player Mick Ellem to utter: "Now we should play Manawa-ones."

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