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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
Kurtley Beale to rejoin Waratahs?
Greg Growden
February 14, 2013
The Waratahs' Kurtley Beale skips through the Highlanders' defence, Waratahs v Highlanders, Super Rugby, Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney, Australia, June 11, 2011
Could Kurtley Beale soon be back in Waratahs colours? © Getty Images
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Which Rebel has spit the dummy? And could Kurtley Beale be on his way back to the Waratahs? Greg Growden's Ruck 'n Maul brings you the best of Australian rugby's rumour mill.

Doing a 'Henry Kissinger'

Just hours after taking over as Australian Rugby Union (ARU) head honcho, Bill Pulver must have wondered what he had walked into. Shortly after getting accustomed to the ARU chief executive's chair, he had to rush to Canberra to be briefed about the Australian Crime Commission's report into sports doping and crime links within the Australian football codes. Rugby appears to have avoided the worst fallout, but Pulver still had to be on the front foot immediately, emphasising his code was clean.

That settled, Pulver now has the problem of keeping the Australian provinces happy. They are furious about Wallabies coach Robbie Deans' proposal to quarantine leading players in the lead-up to the British and Irish Lions series. Several argue that it makes a mockery of the Super Rugby season, and ruins their hopes of winning the title. Pulver says he will back Deans, but the Australian provinces are certain to apply the Bunsen burner on the boss. The relationship between the ARU and the Australian provinces - several of which love to agitate - has for some time been poor. And Pulver knows one of the reasons he got the job, following the departure of John O'Neill, was that he would have to take on a Henry Kissinger role and keep the provinces happy. He is trying to do that, putting a positive spin on everything; but eventually he will have to make a hard decision. Someone is bound to get hurt and Pulver will then discover that Australian rugby is not one big happy family. He will no doubt have to negotiate heavy cross-fire.

Ego rebelling in Melbourne

Even before the Super Rugby kick-off, there is high drama at the Melbourne Rebels. One of their biggest draw cards has made it known he is furious not to be named vice-captain. Rebels coach Damien Hill, who needs to dramatically improve his success rate this year or he will be shown the door, surprised many when announcing Gareth Delve as captain, but not naming any deputies, arguing that no-one had stood out for selection. That did not go down well with one high-profile Rebels identity, who has a very healthy, sometimes rampant, ego. In a classic dummy spit, he has told team-mates he will leave Melbourne at the end of the season. Our snouts tell us Queensland Reds are already hovering around this disenchanted player, and the Brumbies are showing interest.

Link likes the bikies?

Reds coach Ewen McKenzie is a closet motorbike enthusiast, but he is taking it to extremes by opting to look like a bikie through growing a beard. Our Reds spies tell us the players are ribbing McKenzie for his new look, arguing he looks more like the bass guitarist out of a '70s heavy metal band than the boss of a successful rugby province.

Kurtley heading home?

One of the Waratahs most controversial off-field figures is about to leave the organisation. This official, who for some strange reason holds a considerable amount of power in the Waratahs' Sydney offices, has no option but to say goodbye. There will be repercussions over this imminent departure, and with it the strong possibility of even more prominent administerial identities leaving Waratahs HQ. More encouraging news for the Waratahs is that they hold hope that Kurtley Beale will return next season. The strong prospect of Beale being sighted back in the Waratahs colours in 2014 may have something to do with Sonny Bill Williams. Fellow Rebels Nick Phipps is another potential Waratahs candidate.

Man of the Match not in spirit

Good to see Matt Dunning recruited by SANZAR to advise judicial officers on dangerous tackles and other citable offences. Steve Kefu, David Croft and John Langford will also be involved. It is pleasing to see smart, entertaining characters being lured back into the game. Dunning may not realise he was at the centre of one of the most hilarious Super Rugby moments when the Sydney press corp decided as a joke to name him Man of the Match in a tense Waratahs-Brumbies battle in Sydney some years ago. Let's just say many Brumbies hated their Waratahs counterparts; the shocked looks on the Brumbies players' faces when Dunning's name was announced over the Sydney Football Stadium's loudspeaker will never be forgotten. One Brumbies front rower came close to hurling his skull-cap into the turf in disgust.

Greg Growden is a rugby analyst for ESPN Australia and you can also follow him on Twitter

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