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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
Lions camp not the only battleground
Greg Growden
March 8, 2013
Greg Growden and Russell Barwick preview the weekend action, including the Six Nations matches you can see in Australia and New Zealand LIVE and exclusively on ESPN
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A meeting involving Australian Rugby Union (ARU) heavies, including new chief executive Bill Pulver, and Super Rugby officials has done nothing to improve the tense relationship between head office and its constituents. The ARU folk met officials from the five Australian Super Rugby provinces and key stakeholders to deliver their "future growth" master plan. But at least two provincial officials who have considerable clout weren't impressed to be told the ARU would be taking a Big Brother approach and will "control media" and "control marketing".

The blame game was used to explain the ARU's unsettled financial position, and some glaring comments were made about the state of the various provinces' finances. That didn't go down well with several in the room, who said privately they were offended, even intimidated, by some of the comments made.

One Super Rugby official - clearly wanting to ingratiate himself with the ARU - made a complete fool of himself when he said that everyone knew the provinces were "cooking the books". This prompted another official to query when the ARU would ever end its investigation into an Australian province's alleged salary cap rort that made headlines last year.

A prominent "Kremlin" - I mean ARU director - is also feeling the pressure from colleagues as his unsavoury comments about a notorious "skilled leader" have come back to haunt him. The new ARU guard's obsession in leaking everything to one newspaper is also upsetting the rest - and with good reason.

Don't mention the ...

Don't mention the Waratahs if you're wandering around Melbourne Rebels' headquarters; the relationship between the two provinces is prickly, with the New South Wales win over the Melbourne minnows in round three causing further infection.

Rebels management is furious the Waratahs are working so hard at trying to pilfer some of their best playing talent: we broke the news in Ruck'n Maul hat Rebels No. 10 Kurtley Beale was eager to return to the Waratahs; now Rebels half-back Nick Phipps has also been earmarked for the Waratahs, while we're now told NSW are looking closely at Mitch Inman.

That's maybe why a Rebels coach was very cold towards his NSW counterpart last Friday night, and later complained to a Waratahs blazer brigade member that he "wasn't running a nursery for NSW". It might be smarter for this Rebels coach instead to focus on trying to work out a way to get his team to actually win a game.

Ructions at Moore Park - again

Michael Cheika's no-nonsense approach has upset a Waratahs official, who has been moaning to anyone who can bother listening to him about how the new head coach wasn't his choice. This official has also been muttering ridiculously that Cheika had better start winning games, or there will be trouble. And it is only round two.

The imminent departure of a Waratahs staff member has also caused enormous ructions at Moore Park. It has prompted numerous clashes, an investigation, and now the serious threat of one of their biggest names leaving the organisation if the "truth is not revealed". If this big, big name departs, the Waratahs will be in a complete mess.

No quiet on the western front

Michael Foley moved to Perth in the hope of some peace after a heady time with the Waratahs that included him trying to control a divided dressing room. That hasn't exactly happened. Our Cottesloe cowboy contacts tell us that Foley, now in charge of the winless Western Force, has not won over one high-profile squad member. Our snout says there have been some interesting personality clashes.

The name's ...

Was Quade Cooper really sighted lunching with a Sydney Roosters heavy-hitter in Brisbane a few days ago?

And who is the Australian provincial team manager given the nickname "007"? Apparently it has something to do with his liking of cameras, and ordering a martini at the bar "with two olives". We await an update about whether he likes his martini shaken not stirred.

Sledge of the Week

The award this week goes to a Rebels midfielder who yelled out to the referee when Tom Carter was involved in a dubious tackle in the Waratahs-Melbourne match in round three: "Don't bin him ref, it's his last season."

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