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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
Toulon making play for Michael Cheika
Greg Growden
June 27, 2014
Ruck'n Maul: Rugby customers are king so Greg Growden says give them what they want

Toulon are not just chasing Australian rugby's biggest name, Israel Folau; now it appears they have New South Wales Waratahs coach Michael Cheika in their sights.

Ruck'n Maul has been told that Folau remains interested in playing for one of the world's wealthiest clubs, with the added attraction that his close ally, Cheika, may also be lured to the French Top 14 powerhouse. There is understood to be a push for Bernard Laporte to become Toulon's director of rugby, which would allow Cheika to take over the head coach role - with a lucrative base salary in the range of $US750,000 per year. That would be very, very hard to resist. Cheika is intimate with the French and European rugby scene, having tasted Celtic League and Heineken Cup success with Leinster in Ireland before becoming director of rugby at Stade Francais.

Cheika may have laughed off the report, saying at a press conference on Friday "only US$750,000? ... I thought I'd get more if I was going to Toulon", but Ruck'n Maul has been assured our information is solid.

Also Folau's position in Australian rugby remains delicate, due to concerns that certain financial promises at both Waratahs and Wallabies level have not been fulfilled. No wonder the Toulon-Folau stories have started to bob up.

More on the Jonny Wilkinson front …

Expect Sydney sightings early next month, especially as those wanting him to play in the National Rugby Championship are now talking about offering him the extraordinary figure of $A100,000 per match.

Australia's rugby fans have spoken

The Australian Rugby Union have hopefully heard the message that punters want more Saturday afternoon Tests; it is now up to the union officials to give the fans want they want. As last weekend's Wallabies-France international in Sydney showed, afternoon Test football works. At last Australian rugby is being talked about in positive terms, and it has a lot to do with a capacity crowd enjoying a team reveling in the chance to play in sunlight. Sure, the broadcasters prefer night games. But there's nothing better on TV that a spectacle played in front of a full house. So it's now up to the ARU to show some courage and go the next step. Play one of the more important Rugby Championship matches - such as a South Africa Test - during the day in Sydney next year. It's one easy way to win back the fans.

There's nothing so good as a full house in the sunshine © Getty Images
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NRC will kick off in August - apparently

 
Who is the well-known Australian Super Rugby coach on the short list to be forwards coach at London Irish?
 

The National Rugby Championship is apparently still starting in late August, but there is serious rumbling among the troops with two Sydney clubs, apparently, losing interest in being involved in the competition and distancing themselves from the franchises with which they are supposedly aligned. As disconcerting is the fact that a leading official involved in the actual running of the championship has been moved on. No wonder some franchise officials get frustrated when they contact the ARU to get details on the championship, only to be told: "We'll get back to you." They're still waiting for the return call.

Eddie Jones getting back to full health

News of Japan's 10th straight win got buried somewhat due to the Wallabies and All Blacks triumphs over the weekend, but the achievement deserves high praise - especially as they latest win was against Italy. Also, it is pleasing to see former Wallabies and now Japan coach Eddie Jones back on deck and getting back to full health. Jones remains one of the best thinkers and great characters of the game.

Gordon clan keeping it in the family

The best family story of the week goes to the Rorke clan from the Gordon club in Sydney. Charlie Rorke, captain of the Gordon Under-15 team, needed a knee reconstruction. To get the required result, however, he required a hamstrings tendon that had to be donated by a family member for "recovery compatibility" reasons. His father and former Gordon forward, Bernie, agreed and underwent the operation last Friday morning. That didn't stop Bernie. As soon as it was over, he left hospital and went straight to a Gordon club fundraising lunch. Although a bit dazed and limping somewhat, he had a victory at the lunch - winning a 10kg Darling Downs leg of ham.

They said it ...

Best tweet of the week goes to Greg Campbell, long-time rugby scribe who was the first (and best) Wallabies team media manager. He has been watching the Wallabies for a long time, and his observation of their Sydney triumph deserves notice.

And the best quote of the week goes to one of our favourites - Benn Robinson. When interviewed by "Pinky Cashman" and Djuro Sen, he showed off his excitement for his Waratahs team-mate by saying: "When Will Skelton was going for that try he had a bit of a tingle in his eye."

Whispers of the Week

- Who is the well-known Australian Super Rugby coach on the short list to be forwards coach at London Irish? But he wants the main job. There's still strong mail that Brian Smith, currently in charge at London Irish, could be headed to Queensland Reds, with James O'Connor in tow.

- Who was the official hovering in the background for an eternity when the media were interviewing numerous Waratahs outside the Moore Park HQ this week? The official waited for the perfect moment to get in front of the cameras to shake Israel Folau's hands. Sadly for the official, his TV moment ended on the cutting room floor.

- Who was the NSW official who recently complained that someone was parked in his car spot only to discover it was a person he had just retrenched?

- Friction is intense between some Wallabies officials and an Australian province over recent caustic comments, prompting a nasty altercation last Sunday.

- Is it true maverick MP Clive Palmer is providing third-party sponsorship to one Australian Super Rugby franchise? OK Corral, indeed.

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