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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.

Ruck'n Maul
Geraint John already has a target on his back
Greg Growden
May 30, 2014
Ruck'n Maul: Greg Growden looks at the best and worst in rugby during the past seven days

Newly appointed Australia Sevens coach Geraint John will have to embark on a charm offensive campaign when he takes over in June. And he had better enjoy some wins at major tournaments - including at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow - because a number of influential rugby identities are already gunning for the Welshman. Numerous Ruck'n Maulophiles called to say that former Wallabies coach Alan Jones on his 2GB radio program this week was pointed in his criticism of the appointment, believing it should have gone to an Australian. As the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) well knows, it is not a wise move to get on the wrong side of Jones. But it goes further than that. A former Wallabies captain with strong administerial links has also made his feelings known to an ARU official about the appointment. "Not impressed" is an understatement. And it is understood that one Australian Super Rugby franchise will lodge a formal complaint over the appointment. The feeling was summed up by the head coach of an Australian franchise, who told Ruck'n Maul: "What is the point of the National Rugby Championship if coaches are told they are being looked at, and then they do this?" In the end, whether John, who has coached Canada's Sevens team for the past four seasons, is targeted or left alone will all revolve around success, and whether he can turn the men's team into the No.1-rated side in the world at a time when the ARU is focusing so heavily on Sevens football. No wonder the man who is replacing Michael O'Connor has been talking about trying to get big Australian Super Rugby names into his squad.

The future looks bright

Those folk who were at Chatswood Oval on Tuesday night would have had their spirits lifted watching two teams - Australian Under-20s and the Australian Barbarians side - wanting to play the game in the right vein. Kicking for territory was generally ignored. Scrums were not set over and over again. The referee let the game flow. And everything was played at high pace. Not surprisingly, the game featured an abundance of quality tries scored by both teams, which was a fair feat considering the ground lighting was well short of stadium standard. If this level of play continues, the under-20s will be worth watching at the Junior World Cup in New Zealand.

Rebels a target for Melbourne Storm?

The fine print of the ARU's annual report featured a veiled warning over private ownership. It showed the ARU provided Melbourne Rebels with $A5.5 million financial assistance after their private backer, Harold Mitchell, departed. We now hear there is rugby league interest in the Rebels, with some people within the Melbourne Storm NRL organisation also investigating the possibility of private equity involvement. They apparently see the value in being part of a rugby franchise. For a time in Sydney, there even seemed to be some interest at the Penrith Panthers NRL club in being involved with the Waratahs. But according to another of the consortiums seeking private equity at Moore Park, the interest from the Panthers has cooled off somewhat.


There are some interesting figures in the ARU annual report, even for the trainspotters. Apart from recording a $19.5 million profit for last year, the report revealed that 52,000 pith helmets were handed out to Wallabies supporters during the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour, 28,075 people enjoyed hospitality hosted by the ARU, and the Brumbies travelled 32,590km in the final month of last year's Super Rugby tournament. So now you know.

Afternoon delight in Sydney

In these tough times, it's not surprising the ARU are doing everything they can to ensure they get capacity Test crowds. For the afternoon Test against France in Sydney on June 21, there is a call for all the local grade clubs to play their games on Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon so they don't clash with the international. Some clubs apparently are none too keen about changing their kick-off times. That might have something to do with recent club grants being cut drastically. At least the punters cannot complain about the 3pm Test kick-off. Many folk have been calling for more afternoon internationals, and the ARU have got it right. The only way it will continue is if the crowds come.

Whispers of the Week

- Expect strong Wallabies/Waratahs input at the French club Lyon. Some interesting signings are imminent.

- One Australian team consoled themselves after last weekend's loss by attending a nightclub where local bikies turned up bearing gifts. The franchise's chief executive received a complaint from a supporter who was at the nightclub.

- Which former rugby powerbroker was shocked at a supposedly secret rendezvous when numerous players suddenly turned up in the hotel foyer and ruined the surprise? Red faces all round.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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