Ruck'n Maul
Robbie Deans 'is a walking target'
Greg Growden
May 23, 2013
The Reds' Quade Cooper beats the tackle of the Chiefs' Aaron Cruden, Chiefs v Queensland Reds, Super Rugby, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, April 13, 2013
Quade Cooper remains the feature headline of the rugby week © Getty Images

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans will have to tread warily around several Australian provincial coaches. Deans is hardly flavour of the month with Queensland Reds after leaving Quade Cooper out of the Wallabies squad. Reds coach Ewen McKenzie went straight on the front foot, criticising Cooper's omission, and for preferring James "Speedhump" O'Connor at No. 10. Deans' comments about how Cooper had contributed to Ben Tapuai's loss of form didn't go down well in Queensland, either. It is known also that several coaches were unimpressed that an email between Deans and the provincial coaches asking for their Test team selections was leaked to the media. Expect another firestorm if Deans decides key Wallabies cannot play Super Rugby rounds just before the start of the Test series against the British & Irish Lions. Three Australian provinces - the Reds, Brumbies and New South Wales Waratahs - are in contention for finals spots, and they won't take kindly if they are shackled by an inability to play their best team.

Kurtley 'heading home to Sydney for sure'

We do not know yet if Kurtley Beale will return to play against the Lions series, but he remains on track to be with the Waratahs next season. One of his closest friends has made it well known in Melbourne that Beale is "heading home to Sydney for sure". Also, Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is understood to have remained in contact with Beale.

Will Quade Cooper or Kurtley Beale make the final Wallabies squad?

While on the Waratahs, a major administrative shake-up is in the wind. An influential NSW official is demanding that the Waratahs are brought back under the NSW Rugby Union umbrella, and the whole organisation streamlined. His argument holds a lot of weight, and hopefully he succeeds in his campaign. We hear some people at the Australian Rugby Union are baulking at the idea, citing concerns that the Waratahs, following the departure of HSBC, don't have a major sponsor for 2014. Adding to the unease is the fact that three Sydney clubs are understood to have reported to higher authorities recently that they are close to insolvency and require a bail out.

Play Lions Tour Fantasy: ESPNscrum's fantasy rugby game based on performances during the 2013 Lions Tour.

Reds want Pat Howard to 'jump ship'

Ewen McKenzie is likely to reject overtures for him to stay at the Reds next season, despite numerous key players calling for him not to go. So it is interesting to hear a powerful Reds official, aware some players are not overwhelmed that Richard Graham will take over as coach next year, is keen to approach Pat Howard, currently with Cricket Australia, to see if he is interested in "jumping ship".

Relationships need some counselling

The relationships between certain Australian provincial chief executives, and even between some CEOs and players, have been prickly in recent weeks. We've heard of one CEO contacting another, pleading with him to stop his coach from commenting about the former's team. Elsewhere, an infuriated player grabbed his province's CEO and told him to "**** off". At another province, a CEO who lacks the respect of his players discovered a very nasty note placed under his car's windscreen wiper. Also two officials weren't made welcome in a winning Australian team's dressing room last weekend. And it wasn't the Waratahs' dressing room.

Deans laying a foundation of excuses

Sam Kekovich and Russell Barwick discuss the Wallabies squad

Even though it is a flawed argument, the Wallabies continue to bang on about their short preparation time before the first Lions Test. They have argued for some time about how they are at a disadvantage, despite the fact the Lions do not get together until just before they board the plane to head to Australia via Hong Kong. In the press release announcing the Wallabies training squad, a great deal of space was devoted to Deans emphasising again how tough his task is. In what appears to be a campaign to ensure the provinces don't whinge about their players being unavailable due to a Wallabies training squad, Deans stressed in the release the importance of their three-week preparation before the first Test.

"You only have to look back to the experience in 2001, where Australia lost the first Test [to the Lions], to see the consequences of a compromised preparation," Deans said. "We have our own more recent experience of something similar. Rod Macqueen [the 2001 Wallabies coach] has since made it clear that despite the build-up they had, which included a warm-up game, they were caught short in that opening game. We have to make the most of the limited preparation time we have in place in order to avoid a similar result." These are not the sentiments of a relaxed coach. Maybe it has something to do with the consequences if the Lions belt the Wallabies.

Rumours of the week

Which ARU official is known as "Don King" because he is the master of self-promotion? Which Australian provincial coach and one of his board members are so offside that we hear legal letters have been exchanged? Is it really true the Lions are threatening to snub some functions while in Australia due to "gaps" in their schedule? And which Australian province wants to approach Sir Graham Henry to review their flawed rugby operations?

What rugby rumours and gossip have you heard? Contact Greg Growden on Twitter @greggrowden to share your news.

© ESPN Australia / New Zealand

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