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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
Folau's future in rugby far from a done deal
Greg Growden
May 9, 2013
New South Wales Waratahs fullback Israel Folau runs the ball, Southern KIngs v New South Wales Waratahs, Super Rugby, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, May 4, 2013
Israel Folau's future in rugby may be threatened by a third-party deal gone wrong © Getty Images
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Israel Folau may soon be the face of Australian Rugby, but only the foolish should be convinced that he is definitely signed, sealed and delivered for next year. Despite Folau indicating on his return from South Africa that he wants to continue playing rugby next season, ESPN scrum.com has been told of a recent hiccup that could affect where he ends up. It appears there is a serious discrepancy over a proposed massive third-party deal involving Folau, which could fall through due to bungling by Waratahs and Australian Rugby Union officials. It is complicated, but it appears money promised is unlikely to surface, because one of the businessman supposedly involved in the third-party deal wasn't aware of it. And the supposed moneyman is furious that officials have even used his name as an enticement.

There will be ramifications, especially as the Bulldogs and Roosters National Rugby League clubs continue to hover around Folau. A decision is expected by May 31. And don't be surprised if Folau walks straight into the first Test team to play the British & Irish Lions. The ARU was originally going to use David Pocock as the face of the Wallabies-Lions advertising campaign, but that was thwarted when the Australian captain was seriously injured. Several at ARU HQ are now interested in using Folau as the "face of Australian Rugby" in their promotions for this year's Test matches. Also causing serious concern at the Waratahs is a contractual mess-up that could affect Kurtley Beale returning home from the Rebels to NSW next year.

War of words

The Waratahs-Brumbies match in Sydney on May 18 will be a prickly affair. Let's just say that Waratahs coach Michael Cheika was underwhelmed by the comments of his Brumbies counterpart Jake White over Folau last week. White's argument that Folau's prospective selection against the Lions would be an indictment on the Australian jersey is bound to be used as a Waratahs motivator in the days leading up to that crucial match. One notable Brumbies player, following the loss to the Crusaders, also wasn't impressed when an official accused the team of being scared of the New Zealand province. The player texted the official recommending that he pull his head in or he was "outta here".

Love in the water?

Hot tip. Todd Blackadder the next Scotland coach. And the most sizzling rugby rumour going around at the moment: Who was the Olympic swimmer sighted at the last Rebels match? And who is the besotted footballer? The identities will shock some, including close mates of the footballer. This relationship could even see the footballer head interstate. Sydney maybe?

Mystery woman to join ARU

The ARU is pursuing several interesting people to join their staff. A high-profile woman is in line for a demanding ARU position. We've been told her identity will "astound us". In a good or bad way, we're not certain. The ARU recently publicly listed their key officials. This is despite one of them leaving after the Lions series, while the other, who is intimate with the inner workings of the organisation, has been offered a considerable pay increase to stave off another football code's interest.

Greg Growden and Russell Barwick with more rumour and gossip from the corridors of power
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Pulver's B comp hits hurdle

As revealed in ESPN scrum.com this week, ARU boss Bill Pulver headed to his first International Rugby Board this week trying to get law changes through for his proposed 'B' team curtain raiser competition. According to our IRB snouts, if Pulver can get the organisation to even consider these law changes, including no penalty goals and a different sin bin system, he will be a genius. Several IRB officials, who had never met Pulver, were on the defensive well before he arrived in Dublin a few days ago, and we've been told "were waiting for him". So don't bet on the B competition appearing in the near future.

Threatening to go public

Warning. Warning. Warning. An aggrieved player who is on the outer at his Australian province is threatening to go public over incidents of alleged sordid behaviour involving board members and team officials on an overseas trip. And no it has nothing to do with another Australian province's recent overseas trip where one ever blundering official made a fool of himself at an after-match function when he was sighted slumped in the arms of a colleague after being side-swiped by an angry player.

Tell him he's dreaming

The Castle Part Two. Who is the businessman who, when enquiring whether he would ever seen any return in his investment in an Australian province, was told by an official: "Mate, I won't lie… you're dreaming." And who is the official now known as "The Leprechaun"? Another is known as "Gomez" because of his fascination with pin-stripe suits.

Contact Greg Growden on Twitter @greggrowden if you have information to share.

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