Ewen McKenzie has made some perplexing decisions since taking over as Australia coach, but he can only be congratulated for his call in suspending six Wallabies, and sanctioning nine others, for getting on the booze in Dublin.
McKenzie has made it blatantly clear he wants to improve the Wallabies team culture, which deteriorated under his predecessor, Robbie Deans. And the Rugby World Cup-winning prop has shown he is not just going to talk about it, but, unlike several Wallabies coaches of the past, will actually do something about it.
He made that clear by immediately discarding James O'Connor, a talented player but a troublemaker, from the Wallabies fraternity, forcing him to head to England in search of a player contract. Now he has put half his touring squad on notice after they were caught out by the legendary Dublin nightlife last week. So the team know exactly where he stands: play up, do something silly, and you lose the right, the honour, to play for the Wallabies. And that's the way it should be.
McKenzie is bound to be criticised for supposedly taking his time in deciding on the bans, with suggestions he could have acted before the Ireland Test. But as he rightfully explained today, if he could have acted quicker, he would have. As there were so many players involved in the drinking binge, it took a number of days for McKenzie to "establish the facts" and he could not finalise the investigation until Sunday. His explanation to delay the bans until this weekend's Scotland Test is fair.
|"We've done this because we need to continually reinforce the need for our players to make smart decisions to benefit the team." Ewen McKenzie explains his decision to discipline 15 Wallabies for consuming "inappropriate levels of alcohol"|
You also cannot say McKenzie doesn't make the hard decisions. He after all dropped his scrum-half, Will Genia, and then took the captaincy off James Horwill, showing he doesn't play favourites.
And the only pleasing aspect of this whole messy affair?
Quade Cooper is not on the list of naughty Wallabies.
McKenzie's tough stance could easily be a defining moment for the Wallabies.
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.