Ruck'n Maul
Mitchell, Alo-Emile firming for Wallabies
Greg Growden
June 19, 2015
Ruck'n Maul: How were Hunt & Horwill selected?

When the Australian Rugby Union relaxed its overseas player policy, Matt Giteau was at the centre of all the headlines as the most likely to return home from Europe to play for the Wallabies later this year. But it appears Drew Mitchell is as big a chance of being beckoned from far shores to be part of the Wallabies' Rugby Championship squad. It is well known the Wallabies selectors, in particular coach Michael Cheika, is interested in Mitchell - with his versatility of playing wing and fullback working in his favour. As well, not too many wingers in the Australian conference have shone.

Drew Mitchell could be spotted in Wallaby gold as early as next month © Getty Images
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Although one should not take much notice of the early Wallabies train-on squad, which comprises of those Rebels, Force and Reds players who have missed out on the finals, one fringe candidate who is expected to be there right until the end is Melbourne prop Paul Alo-Emile. His form in the latter half of the Super Rugby season was excellent, and those in charge have noted it. The luckiest players to be in the train-on squad are Karmichael Hunt and James Horwill. They will have to make a marked improvement to stay in the squad, as Hunt did virtually nothing during the season while Horwill is way off his best.

Reds casualties should come thick and fast

There were hilarious scenes after the Waratahs belted the Reds in Sydney last weekend. Bemused onlookers sighted Waratahs coach Michael Cheika being cornered by a troubled Reds official, who was offering plenty of advice about how to get the best of several Queensland players during the upcoming Rugby Championship. Raised eyebrows everywhere. It was hardly surprising that the Waratahs after enjoying a 31-5 belting over their one-time most bitter rivals were singing in the showers: "Can we play you every week?" And several of the Queensland players who were very chirpy and active pre-game on social media were as suddenly as red-faced as their jerseys. It was an abominable end to an abominable Reds season. If the Queensland Rugby Union has any brains the list of off-field casualties should be long and extensive.

Super Rugby Preview: Qualifying Finals
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Prepare for greater conference chaos next year

There have justifiably been complaints about the Super Rugby conference system, which saw the Stormers get in ahead of the Crusaders even though finishing with fewer points. Blame the South Africans for this. Their officials whinged long and hard about it when SANZAR decided to expand the competition to 15 teams, demanding that one South African team must make the finals each year. So it was decided that the leaders of the Australian, South African and New Zealand conferences would go through to the semis - no matter where they finished on the ladder. It will become even more confusing next season when it is expanded to a Super 18, with the introduction of yet another B-grade South African team, and one each from Argentina and Japan. Already we hear there is chaos revolving around the new Japanese team- with no one really certain who will be involved in it next year.

The Crusaders missed the playoffs despite having more points than the Stormers © Getty Images
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And how long will it take for SANZAR to name a replacement for their outgoing CEO Greg Peters, who after being a supporter of Argentina joining the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby ranks has now jumped ranks to be their boss? If the drawn-out SANZAR broadcasting deal process is any indication, we may not hear of Peters' SANZAR replacement for at least another decade. Life will cruise along very happily in the meantime.

Bastareaud comes clean on tour's tall tales

It is amazing how the publication of a player's memoirs can force them to at last tell the truth. One of the most bizarre rugby tour atrocity stories revolved around French centre Mathieu Bastareaud who after getting on the drink following a 2009 Test loss to the All Blacks in New Zealand, fell in his hotel room, suffering extensive facial injuries. The following day, he claimed five New Zealanders had attacked him. That did not go down well with the locals.

Mathieu Bastareaud's book looks to be worth a read © Getty Images
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In his new book, Bastareaud admitted that he: "staggered and, awkwardly, collapsed on the floor with all my weight. In my fall, I smashed the room's night table. The shock was terrible. "I was bleeding a lot and it hurt. My left cheekbone had exploded... I panicked. The doctor asked me how I got the injury. I should have confessed I was drunk, but I was ashamed of my behaviour and afraid to face consequences. I was a coward. So, instead of telling the truth and trusting management, I developed a lie. A lie that would have heavy consequences." A dumb, dumb lie. So much for credibility.

RIP former Wallaby Brian Cox

The Cox family is rugby royalty on Sydney's northern peninsula. Brian Cox, a masterful halfback, played nine Tests for Australia, while his sons - Phillip and Mitchell - were also Wallabies. Brian, aged 86, died last weekend. For countless years Brian Cox was a Manly club stalwart. After 142 first-grade games and 14 appearances for NSW, he took on numerous club duties, including selector, deputy president, referee, linesman and timekeeper. He was also timekeeper at Waratahs home matches and Sydney-based Tests between 1989- 2006. One of the lesser-known facts about Brian was that he travelled to London in 1950, where he ended up playing in the Rosslyn Park team, which won the Middlesex Sevens tournament at Twickenham. In Manly's team of the century, announced in 2006, Phillip was named halfback, Mitchell five-eighth, and Brian the reserve scrumhalf. A fair family feat. At Brian's funeral held during the week, Phillip said his father played at 62kg - extraordinary when measured against today's half-backs. The funeral was attended by numerous ex-Wallabies including Nick Farr-Jones, Glen Ella, Mick Martin, Steve Williams, James Black, Bill Calcraft and Bruce Malouf.

Whispers of the week

- A tired and emotional NSW official did himself no favours by insinuating in front of many listeners that there may be much more to why one of the Waratahs suddenly has an injury concern. Even if it may be true, this comment, according to those in the know at the Tahs, is bound 'to cause fireworks.'

- One larger-than-life media identity has been told - not for the first time this season - to stay well away from the Waratahs because his behaviour is so obnoxious.

- A well known former Wallaby could bob up in the New Zealand rugby ranks shortly. There has been an interesting sighting.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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