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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
Scott Johnson returning to Australia
Greg Growden
March 21, 2013
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Scott Johnson may soon be back in the Australian Rugby fold, as there is strong interest in the interim Scotland coach becoming the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) high performance unit manager. Influential ARU officials are aware that Johnson is interested in returning to Australia, and, knowing his vast skills, they have discussed whether he would be the right man to replace David Nucifora. Let's hope the ARU continues to seriously pursue Johnson, a former Wallabies assistant coach, as he is an outstanding candidate and has the skills and knowledge to handle this tough position. It will still require a good offer to lure Johnson back home because Scotland are understandably keen to hold onto him after a spirited Six Nations campaign. And Johnson is a man of his word.

While Ireland officials have admitted privately that they want Ewen McKenzie to replace Declan Kidney, the possibility of Johnson leaving Scotland will give the departing Reds coach further Six Nations coaching leverage. After all, McKenzie has strong links at both Ireland and Scotland. His long-time friend Les Kiss is an Ireland assistant coach, while McKenzie's former Reds defensive coach Matt Taylor is now with Scotland.

Jake White back to South Africa?

While Jake White is being pushed by many to be the next Wallabies coach, the situation has become somewhat cloudy. We've been told that he has been pursued by South African officials while he is in the Republic with the Brumbies. The reverberating whisper is that White will be offered the Kings provincial job as a way to "guarantee" his return to the Springboks head coaching ranks.

Foot in mouth

Name the belligerent but out-of-touch ARU official who told Sydney Shute Shield club representatives a few days ago that he had no interest in ensuring rugby has a strong influence in Sydney's Western Suburbs. He instead astounded the club rugby officials by saying it was far more important for rugby to concentrate on its strong areas - Sydney's North Shore and the Eastern Suburbs. Insular or what! Still, what can be expected of a misguided mob, which includes delegates who believe that Ewen McKenzie shouldn't coach the Wallabies because as a front-rower he supposedly had no idea about backline play. Embarrassing.

Can the Waratahs get their season back on track after losing to the Cheetahs?
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Key Waratah wants to leave to escape Wallabies

There is no doubt going to be a mass exodus from New South Wales Waratahs after the Super Rugby season. Berrick Barnes is one of numerous Wallabies looking elsewhere. But the Waratahs will be shocked to learn of one big name currently peering at the exit door because he doesn't believe he is being treated well. It also may have something to do with the Wallabies forcing him to constantly back up when he is not 100 per cent fit; this inspirational figure, for good reason, is now looking overseas. And who is the bumbling Waratahs official known as "the Scorpion" because the person concerned will "carry you on their back and then turn on you". Another is unhappy to be known as "Eddie" because the name "is very close to the bone". "Eddie" has even threatened those who are found to be discussing his private affairs or associations. Collapsing home crowd figures are also causing big concern in Tahland, with even Tah Man targeted for criticism. Members are none too impressed that Tah Man is now becoming a stuntman, dancer and even DJ at home games. The Waratahs budgets have had to be re-cast, and they require average home crowds of 27,000 at Moore Park and 38,000 at Homebush to break even this year. Good luck.

Force official angered Reds players

There were fun and games in the players' tunnel following the shock Western Force win over Queensland Reds in Brisbane. A Force official got carried away with the moment, and his "inappropriately over-exuberant behaviour" saw him shoved out of the way by one of the Reds players.

Rebels officials unhappy

Financially troubled Melbourne Rebels aren't exactly overwhelmed with the decision of Nick Phipps to head to the Waratahs, with the early announcement via the ARU website angering some, Rebels officials also aren't delighted that so many players are hinting they want to go elsewhere. The ARU could be forced to step in if crowds dwindle and losses continue. At the Rebels, there is even strong talk of a palace coup.

Proposed code sparking disagreement

After some silly antics, including that crazy Melbourne rooftop photo that included several Wallabies frolicking, the ARU are muttering about a new code of conduct being instituted. Some provinces are for it, others are asking why, and one may not even know about it. Others are deeply concerned that one ARU figure is going alone and moving on the matter without "proper consultation". This issue will become heated, and will act as a further hurdle between the ARU and the provinces.

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