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Greg Growden
Greg Growden | Columnist Index
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
Folau's asking price a big worry for the ARU
Greg Growden
June 27, 2013
Australia's Israel Folau delights at scoring against the Lions, Australia v British & Irish Lions, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, June 22, 2013
Israel Folau is laughing all the way as his asking price escalates across both rugby codes © Getty Images
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Israel Folau's contract price increases by the day, and the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) know it is going to cost them an exorbitant sum if they want the two-try Wallabies Test hero to remain in their ranks. This could be a dilemma especially with ARU officials repeatedly saying their financial state is not healthy. And numerous Sydney rugby league clubs continue to hover around Folau, with one important deadline looming. Our snouts who hang around a certain Moore Park car park in Sydney are adamant the Sydney Roosters NRL club have given Folau until Friday this week to accept their offer, or it will be withdrawn.

Louden to the Rebels?

The Melbourne Rebels have yet to decide who will be their head coach next season, but a fascinating development is that one of their leading players has been telling teammates he was recently coaxed into signing with the Rebels on the understanding that former Waratahs assistant coach Todd Louden will be there next year.

Lions touring party gains the Twit-erer

The official British and Irish Lions media prevention society has swollen to four with the arrival of the Twit-erer, who our snout on the ground Sir Larry tells us, dons a Lions blazer, along with the five security guards and "branding team" of eight. The Lions touring party is now so large they need two buses to travel around and when they fly an entire wing of the Qantas Club is given over to them. The least popular of the Lions Media entourage with the local press remains the Rupert Murdoch of the Rugby media world, Emperor Ting. He has become progressively unpopular since he began taking to Twitter in an unofficial capacity to chastise the local media on their various journalistic endeavours. If the Lions lose the series Emperor Ting will be the recipient of the most egg on his face, a sight Sir Larry and many others will be pleased to see.

Lions players lacking media polish

Sir Larry is happy to report that some among the Lions tour party are very accomplished speakers with standing room only whenever they face the media. Brian O'Driscoll is a media favourite. Still reporters are careful not to ask a stupid question knowing that O'Driscoll will bring them down with a fast quip. Paul O'Connell is known for his quiet eloquence and coach Warren Gatland is a media darling for his habit of tossing grenades into the most benign of press conferences, particularly his habit of taking potshots at opposing coaches and players. But some members of the Lions squad are not so comfortable behind the microphone and their appearance is dreaded by the large UK and Irish media contingent. Leigh Halfpenny averages at best one full sentence per media conference. A collective groan goes up whenever he is rostered on to face the media. Other Lions players that send the media scurrying for the exit are the mono-syllabic Toby Faletau and Manu Tuilagi.

Last man standing

And what were Adam Ashley-Cooper's words of advice when he suddenly saw flanker Michael Hooper standing next to him in the Wallaby midfield during the First Test? "Mate, just tackle." Ashley-Cooper said in an interview for the Second Test program that Hooper did 'a good job considering the challenge, and that's what made it hard for me to go off. I didn't want to leave a halfback and a flanker in the midfield."

Deans gives nothing to rival jibes

Past and present opposing coaches know that the Wallabies are fair game, because their leader Robbie Deans won't answer back. Deans purposely avoids confrontation, controversy and so numerous opponents including Steve Hansen, Gatland and even former Lions leader Sir Clive Woodward know their barbs will hit the mark, without a stinging return serve. Woodward is relishing giving the Wallabies an upper cut, using his UK media column to laugh at Australia's kicking woes. As Woodward said: "Australia need a full-time, specialist kicking coach who lives in the country and travels to work face-to-face with all the Wallaby backs. Instead, the ARU employ a former Springbok fly-half Braam van Straaten, who lives in South Africa and works with the players online. The players send him footage through a video-sharing website, he analyses the tapes and gives them feedback in a Skype chat once a week. I thought that was a joke when I found out. For a professional rugby team in the 21st century to work this way defies belief." Woodward is not alone in that opinion, as shown by Lions assistant coach Neil Jenkins also revving up the same subject during the week.

Greg Growden and Russell Barwick discuss the big issues and gossip ahead of the second Test in Melbourne
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Job well done

Congratulations to all those involved in fixing up the grave of Tom Richards - of Wallabies Lions Tom Richards Cup fame - at Manly Cemetery. And full marks to the Manly Daily sports editor Jonathan B. Geddes for pushing the cause.

Rumours of the week

Strong mail that pointed comments were made at a recent Waratahs board meeting, where it was revealed by one 'in the know' official that due to off-field bungling they could lose their star league player Israel Folau. And it was clear who was being blamed for the uncertainty over whether Folau will remain a Waratah. And who was the visiting UK rugby scribe so angry and disorientated on this Lions tour he began shouting at what he thought was a person? It was instead a statue.

© ESPN Australia / New Zealand

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