Cheika leaves Beale and Ash­ley-Cooper out on dis­ci­plinary grounds

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - RUGBY - GER­ARD MEAGHER

To­day Eng­land v Aus­tralia Twick­en­ham Sta­dium, 3.30 Sky Sports Ac­tion

Aus­tralia were plunged into chaos on the eve of to­day’s en­counter with Eng­land af­ter it emerged Kurt­ley Beale and Adam Ash­ley-Cooper were not avail­able for se­lec­tion for dis­ci­plinary rea­sons, just hours af­ter David Po­cock was ruled out through in­jury.

Beale and Ash­ley-Cooper have been sanc­tioned for al­low­ing three women back to their ho­tel in New­port af­ter the de­feat by Wales two weeks ago. Both fea­tured against Italy last Satur­day but coach Michael Cheika acted at the start of the week af­ter the in­ci­dent was brought to his at­ten­tion by the Wal­la­bies’ se­nior lead­er­ship group, which in­cludes cap­tain Michael Hooper.

It is be­lieved Ash­ley-Cooper’s sis­ter-in-law was among the women in at­ten­dance, con­tra­ven­ing team rules which state no guests are al­lowed in play­ers’ rooms.

“The lead­er­ship group came to me ear­lier in the week and asked me to deal with it in a way I thought was ap­pro­pri­ate, and I thought this was the ap­pro­pri­ate way,” said Cheika. “We have had an in­con­sis­tent sea­son be­cause we have of­ten taken short cuts when we have needed to go harder and get to the well a lit­tle bit more and dig a bit deeper.”

Aus­tralia were dealt a sig­nif­i­cant in­jury blow yes­ter­day their break­down master Po­cock was ruled out of the Twick­en­ham clash. The num­ber eight in­jured his neck in a 26-7 vic­tory over Italy last week­end, but was named to start by Cheika when he an­nounced his side to face Eng­land on Thurs­day.

Failed fit­ness test

Po­cock has since failed a fit­ness test and, al­though Aus­tralia have yet to con­firm a re­place­ment, it is likely Pete Samu will step up from the bench.

“He’s hurt­ing but he’s des­per­ate to play,” Cheika said of Po­cock on Thurs­day. “He’s had them at him all year. He puts his head into places peo­ple go to and he’s copped a fair few whacks in there this year.”

Be­tween them, Beale and Ash­ley-Cooper have 200 caps but both have had dis­ci­plinary prob­lems in the past. Beale was fined and nar­rowly avoided the sack in 2014, af­ter send­ing an in­ap­pro­pri­ate text mes­sage to Wal­la­bies staff mem­ber Di Pat­ston, while Ash­ley-Cooper was one of six play­ers banned for the 2013 Test against Scot­land be­cause of a mid­week drink­ing ses­sion. The 34-year-old has only just re­turned to the Aus­tralia set-up, hav­ing made his first ap­pear­ance last week­end in more than two years.

Cheika was adamant yes­ter­day nei­ther player would have been guar­an­teed se­lec­tion but only 24 hours pre­vi­ously had claimed Beale’s omis­sion was purely down to form. “Ob­vi­ously there is dis­ap­point­ment – and they are dis­ap­pointed too,” added Cheika. “It’s a small er­ror of judg­ment. If we want to com­pete with the best, all the small short­cuts have to be gone, on and off the field. Some might con­sider it a bit too harsh [but] the lead­ers showed a lot of courage com­ing to me be­cause they want to set a stan­dard. [Beale and Ash­ley-Cooper] were very apolo­getic, they re­alised their er­ror and they have been try­ing to help the other play­ers get ready for the game.

“This is equiv­a­lent to some­one be­ing late or miss­ing a cur­few. Then the pun­ish­ment has been dealt down. If any­thing it’s a team that has got clar­ity on where it wants to go.”

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