Australian rugby in turmoil with coach Ewen Mckenzie denying affair with official – Kurtley beale text row deepend…
Coach Ewen McKenzie denies Kurtley Beale row has undermined his position and bristles when he asked if he’s been involved in “intimate” relationship with Di Patston…
Australia coach Ewen McKenzie has been forced to deny having an intimate relationship with a Wallabies team official in an extraordinary news conference on Friday.
The press gathering was supposed to focus almost exclusively on Kurtley Beale’s suspension. Beale faces disciplinary action stemming from a row with team business manager Di Patston on a flight to South America for last week’s Rugby Championship clash against Argentina. That became a secondary issue, however, when the talented back was suspended on Thursday over allegations he had distributed “deeply offensive” text messages about a ‘team official’ in June.
Patston, on indefinite sick leave, has not been identified as the target of the text messages but reports in Australian media suggest her close relationship with McKenzie caused friction in the squad.
McKenzie denies the Beale row has undermined his position with the players and bristled when asked directly whether he has been involved in an “intimate” relationship with Patston.
“I’ve got a professional relationship with her and I refute that,” he said, barely containing his anger
“There are people out there and there’s some sort of campaign to impugn that that’s the situation. I’ve got a professional relationship with her and that’s all.”
McKenzie also described as “false” reports that he was aware of the text messages in June, long before they were brought to the attention of senior Australian Rugby Union officials this week.
“I became aware of the existence of the text messages in Buenos Aires (last week). I know the content, I haven’t seen the photos,” he said. “When I became aware of it I forwarded the information on.”
In a further blow to Australian rugby, reports even suggest the cash-strapped ARU could be insolvent by 2015.
Numerous high-ranking sources are claiming that a presentation at the ARU annual general meeting several months ago pointed out how Australian rugby is in financial strife.
The presentation explained that an “unsustainable business model based on periodic windfalls” and diminishing revenue was “leading to insolvency in 2015”. The ARU listed one of its key challenges for the next year as avoiding insolvency in 2015. Earlier this month, a senior ARU official told colleagues of the fear that, by April next year, the ARU “could run out of cash”.
Amongst all the turmoil, McKenzie has named his squad for next week’s Test against New Zealand and fly-half Quade Cooper has been recalled following Beale’s suspension.
Fiji-born Speight, who qualified for Australia in September, will join the squad to familiarise himself with the set-up but will not be considered for selection as he continues recuperation from a hamstring injury.
No 8 Ben McCalman has been ruled out for the rest of the year by a shoulder injury he sustained against the Springboks two weeks ago. Luke Jones, who won his only cap against France in June, comes into the squad to reinforce the back row, along with Jake Schatz. Centre Matt Toomua joins McKenzie’s long injury list after taking a knock on the head in the defeat to Argentina.
It has been suggested that the Beale situation has become divisive in the Wallabies camp, which is still reeling from last week’s 21-17 defeat to Argentina.
But McKenzie insists: “I don’t think I have a divided camp.”
He added: “I know there’s been lots of talk in the newspapers and everyone’s got an opinion, but I know the playing group.”
“I’ve been open and frank in my time so if there’s an issue, obviously we’ll flesh them out.”
Australia have lost their last two matches in the Rugby Championship, to South Africa and Argentina, and have dropped to fourth in the world rankings as a consequence.
McKenzie, however, still believes his team is making progress and regrets that the Beale row has become such a distraction in the run-up to the New Zealand match.
“I’m annoyed because in the end we’re trying to run a football programme and it’s got sidetracked in many different ways,” he said.
“It’s frustrating but there is challenge to get that back on track. I’ll accept that challenge and get on with it.”
Forwards: Ben Alexander, Tetera Faulkner, Sekope Kepu, Benn Robinson, James Slipper, Saia Fainga’a, James Hanson, Josh Mann-Rea, Sam Carter, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton, Scott Fardy, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, Michael Hooper (capt), Luke Jones, Jake Schatz
Backs: Will Genia, Nick Phipps, Nic White, Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley, Kyle Godwin, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali’ifano, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tom English, Israel Folau, Rob Horne, Henry Speight, Joe Tomane
New Zealand squad
Forwards: Dane Coles, Nathan Harris, Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Brodie Retallick, Jeremy Thrush, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Steven Luatua, Richie McCaw, Liam Messam, Kieran Read
Backs: TJ Perenara, Augustine Pulu, Aaron Smith, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade, Ryan Crotty, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea