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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
Cooper snub came after more Broncos chats
Greg Growden
April 12, 2013
The Reds' Quade Cooper runs the ball against the Bulls, Queensland Reds v Bulls, Super Rugby, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, March 23, 2012
Quade Cooper may have sabotaged his Wallabies claims with NRL discussions © Getty Images
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Quade Cooper dominated Australian rugby headlines on Thursday with news that Wallabies coach Robbie Deans had not invited him to the final get together before the squad is named to face the British & Irish Lions. The reports left players and pundits alike to question whether the coach was out to sabotage the Wallabies. But Deans might have received the mail delivered to ESPN Scrum, with strong whispers in Queensland that Cooper is talking again with NRL club Brisbane Broncos, and "it's getting quite serious". Certainly the Broncos' interest is believed to be stronger than previously. More on this story to come, for sure.

Michael Cheika another target for Ireland

Ewen McKenzie remains in Ireland's sights, but there is another strong Australian candidate who could be lured to Dublin. Our northern hemisphere snouts tell us that Ireland are also showing interest in New South Wales Waratahs coach Michael Cheika. That's not surprising considering Cheika understands the Irish rugby landscape, having enjoyed Heineken Cup success with Leinster, and given that he is intimate with many of their Test players. Contact has been, or is about to be, made.

Cheika is committed to the Waratahs and wants to stay, but insiders tell us that he will not risk players or his own reputation if he fails to get support from a sometimes-wayward head office. Cheika is known to have differing opinions to some Waratahs administrators, and it must be remembered this hard-hitter doesn't stand for too much nonsense. There is also an intriguing sway of power in the Waratahs off-field ranks, and Cheika may be waiting to see who wins that sordid battle before deciding whether to stay long term in Sydney or look more closely at lucrative overseas options - including in Ireland. We understand several meetings when the British & Irish Lions are in town will be crucial. Adding to the mix is the fact that a current Australian provincial coach has sent his CV to Aviva Premiership club Northampton Saints.

There is also strong mail that Cheika is continuing to pursue Melbourne Rebels five-eighth Kurtley Beale; a key Test forward is on the way out at the Waratahs; and watch out for several other shocks as Cheika has declared openly that he has been unimpressed with the team's softness at engagement ...

Bill Pulver now has a nickname

Bill Pulver has been Australian Rugby Union (ARU) head honcho for two months now, and his repeated promises to make sweeping changes in many areas of the game is fascinating staff at their St Leonards headquarters. It has got to the stage that some ARU staff members have nicknamed him "Arsenal"- as in the Gunners. Get it? Gunner do this. Gunner do that. Reminds us of a New South Wales rugby official back in the 1980s who was known as "City Ford" because he said Yes more often.

Right hand and left hand in Canberra

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It's clearly smoke and mirrors time at the Brumbies. Or is it more the left hand not knowing what right hand is doing, with denials from coaching staff that the franchise has been talking to James O'Connor the best stand-up comic line of the year. The truth is that the Brumbies are talking to O'Connor, with a major discussion about the possibilities of him heading to Canberra next season taking place on the same day as the misguided media denial. Maybe the Brumbies are just trying to keep on side certain young pivots and midfielders who would feel threatened by O'Connor's arrival.

Also our Canberra snouts tell us there were heated dressing room exchanges after the blundering performance against the Southern Kings last weekend. A senior player was heard to say: "One ----ing month without a break from each other. What is this … Robben Island?"

Force full of disappointment

Western Force aren't exactly a buoyant mob. In the wake of their disappointing home loss to Melbourne Rebels, one former official has described them as being "better suited in the IPL". The player group is also unimpressed that one of their directors described them at a post-match function as "worse that the [Australia cricket] mob who got thrashed in India".

Hill's alive, but only just

The pressure remains on Melbourne Rebels coach Damien Hill, with the latest revelation revolving around how he has lost player support over the management of the move of Luke Burgess to the province, and of Nick Phipps heading to the Waratahs. Major changes in the Rebels administration are imminent.

Invoices causing nervous looks

Several administrators at an Australian province are getting very edgy about discrepancies over numerous invoices. Now one of their key sponsors is taking a very close look at the goings on at this troubled province. The cashed-up sponsor is thinking of walking, and the province is in enormous trouble if that happens. No wonder the province's leading official has suddenly turned into the Phantom; the ghost who walks.

Gentleman behaving badly

Who is the Wallabies player hassling a well-known Australian sporting identity? His loud behavior at a function, along with another high-profile player, did not go down too well a few days ago. Numerous guests were unimpressed with the player's behaviour, with some - including team-mates - hoping he goes further with his threat to heading overseas.

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