A picture tells a thousand words. Ewen McKenzie has a lot of work to do this week to win back a distracted dressing room. Image: ABC Grandstand
The Roar: If you’ve been waiting for me to weigh into the horrid mess that’s gripped Australian rugby over this past week, then this article is only going to disappoint you further.
Because the point in saying that is that’s it’s just been too damned hard to work out whether what’s been reported is fact or supposition, who knew what and for how long, who’s leaking what info to who and for what reason, and worryingly, how long does it have to run before a proper resolution is reached. I honestly don’t know what to believe and what to ignore, and that makes reaching a conclusion almost impossible.
And believe it or not, but there’s a Test Match to prepare for, and this is why I believe this week might be the biggest in Ewen McKenzie’s coaching career. How he wins back the dressing room, and how the team play against New Zealand in Brisbane on Saturday night could well determine his future as Wallabies coach.
Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper (right) has publicly backed Kurtley Beale, but the decision on Beale’s future is unlikely to fall to the players. Image: ABC Grandstand
ABC Grandstand Digital: Andrew Mayes and I tried to start our regular chat on the good news of Quade Cooper’s recall to the Wallabies squad, but the conversation was always heading toward the biggest story gripping – or even plaguing – Australian rugby currently.
Certainly, the situation surrounding the Wallabies and the ongoing investigations around Kurtley Beale, now-former Wallabies Business Manager Di Patston, and even Ewen McKenzie himself is ugly, and it’s fallout has the potential to be massive. But it needs to be sorted out properly, too.
We also managed to touch on Uruguay’s qualification into the Wallabies’ pool at next year’s Rugby World Cup, as well as wrapping up Round 8 of the National Rugby Championship…
“My only real bone of contention about Owen’s performance was his decision that Francois Hougaard’s high tackle on Adam Ashley-Cooper was cancelled out by Ashley-Cooper scoring the try. It was either high, or it wasn’t, Nigel.” Image via Wallabies Facebook
The Roar: ‘The one that got away’ was how I described the Wallabies’ 28-10 loss to South Africa in Cape Town, in the Sunday morning post-mortem, and I still think that will be the case now, with the squad already in Argentina preparing for their final match of The Rugby Championship.
We heard that Ewen McKenzie was “furious” and “disappointed” about the performance of his bench players in the last ten minutes, according to the various reports. And with good reason, I might add.
The two teams were a hell of a lot closer than the 18-point margin suggests, with the major different being the way the Springbok bench over-ran the Wallabies, as opposed to the way the Wallabies bench seemed to implode with panic and indecision and just plain stupidity…
Wallabies tweaks: Saia Fainga’a was a surprise selection, ahead of James Hanson. Image: ABC Grandstand
ABC Grandstand Digital: With Joe Sullivan in the chair today for Frankie Leach, we preview the South Africa-Australia Test Match at Newlands, Cape Town, kicking off at 1:00am (AEST) tomorrow morning.
As well as having not won at Newlands since the Springboks were first readmitted to international rugby back in 1992, the Wallabies head into the Test with Ewen McKenzie making a few tweaks to the side. Among the changes, hooker Saia Fainga’a has been recalled for his first start in four years, and winger Joe Tomane coming in for Rob Horne.
Country boys: Andrew (L) and Michael Parker have been named for Queensland Country. Image: ABC Grandstand
Also, we touched on the big NRC derby up in Brisbane tomorrow, where Brisbane City will host Queensland Country at Ballymore Oval. The great news for Country being the selection of Townsville-based brothers Andrew and Michael Parker on the bench. This is the whole point of the NRC: giving opportunities to players outside the Super Rugby squads…