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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
Cheika wants Lions stars to bolster Waratahs
Greg Growden
February 28, 2013
Michael Cheika barks some orders to his Waratahs side, Sydney, Australia, October 24, 2012
Michael Cheika said to be concerned at "softness" at the Waratahs © Getty Images
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Touring British & Irish Lions players will be among Michael Cheika's targets in a few months' time as he attempts to bolster the Waratahs' playing ranks.

Cheika, a tough taskmaster, is expected to make widespread changes to his team, especially if they continue to perform so dreadfully - as they did against Queensland Reds. Expect some high-profile players to depart this season, with the coaching staff telling the team this week how unimpressed they were with their inability to commit a third and fourth man in to support a teammate during the interstate loss.

Cheika is reported to be disappointed with the softness of the Waratahs at the tackle and engagement. Cheika is genuinely enthusiastic about some of the club players he has trialled, but he is not an admirer of the "softness" of some of the better-known names in the squad. It will be a fun season in Tahland, and big egos will be deflated. Cheika, through his strong northern hemisphere links, is set to approach some ageing Lions tourists to see if they are interested in a playing stint in the Harbour City. Some big names are already interested.

Some of rugby's all-time greats discuss contenders for the British & Irish Lions squad

Super Rugby salary cap scandal brewing ...

Officials at an Australian Super Rugby province are extremely nervous, and for good reason. A salary cap scandal involving bogus invoices going back several years is about to erupt, while questions are being asked about dubious payment arrangements for corporate boxes at the team's home ground. Apparently the sums don't add up, and we're talking big sums; several officials are being investigated. There is now the serious threat of police being called in. One of the province's figureheads has been missing in action recently, with his lengthy absence from head offices prompting queries. Maybe he is sniffing around another job.

Television against Wallabies camp

A meeting between Australian Rugby Union (ARU) officials and Fox Sports executives is imminent, due to the broadcasters being concerned about the Super Rugby competition being severely diluted for several weeks before the British & Irish Lions series as Wallabies will be in a training camp. We hear Fox Sports is very unimpressed by this proposed camp, as it will affect the standard of the competition being telecast - especially at a time when rugby struggles for ratings on pay TV. The new ARU boss, Bill Pulver, who has quickly shown he is the king of spin, will have some explaining to do.

And it appears Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has upset several provincial coaches after calling players direct, without the provinces' knowledge. An enormous blow-up is imminent; in one case, it may have already happened.

As interesting was noticing a serial offending Wallabies back spouting gibberish on Twitter about 4.30am last Sunday. Let's hope he had not just come home from another big night. No matter what, he does require a day in the classroom learning how to spell.

ARU losing the plot

As the ARU looks at ways to cut costs dramatically, it will still have to fork out some substantial payout cheques as high-profile staff members continue to leave. Ruck'n Maul has been told that one of the union's key officials received more than $190,000 when he left the ARU recently. And there's more to come. There goes a lot of footballs and tackle bags. And what's this wacky stuff about an ARU official going around saying that: "It's not winning that counts, it's the playing of the game, and we should also revive 'three cheers for the ref'." We kid you not. Have they completely lost the plot?

University taking over Sydney?

Who are the gagsters in the Sydney club ranks telling each other that ARU headquarters will be renamed "Buildcorp House"? Something to do with Sydney University types taking over the joint, including one admirer of a "skilled leader".' (Google that one, readers.) Another contributing factor involves Sydney clubs being appalled at a proposed third-tier university competition. A former Sydney University official is also lobbying very hard for the ARU's high-performance unit position left vacant by David Nucifora's departure.

Radio, Wizard banned from post-match functions

"Radio", the notorious official, and his mate "the Wizard" are certain to be barred from the New South Wales Waratahs-Melbourne Rebels after-match function due to complaints from several players and at least one administrator, who do not want to be "pestered" by this dubious "loose as a goose" pair.

Barb of the second round

A renowned Waratahs sledger to Quade Cooper when the Tahs levelled: "Great work, Cooper ... you defended like an insurance man trying to box." As the Reds went on to win, Cooper could have easily replied to the sledger at full-time: "What would you know? You're rubbish."

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