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Wallabies ban 6 players in disciplinary crackdown

November 18, 2013

SYDNEY (AP) — Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has taken a tough disciplinary stand, depleting his squad for Saturday’s test against Scotland by suspending six players and cautioning nine others involved in a night out ahead of last weekend’s win over Ireland in Dublin.

The Australian Rugby Union issued a statement Monday announcing that wingers Adam Ashley-Cooper and Nick Cummins, hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, prop Benn Robinson and backrower Liam Gill had been ruled out of the Scotland match in Edinburgh.

Paddy Ryan will miss the following weekend’s test against Wales. His suspension has been delayed, otherwise Australia wouldn’t be able to meet IRB regulations requiring match squads to contain four props.

“Everyone in our squad is required to comply with and adhere to high standards of ethical conduct both on and off the field,” McKenzie said in a statement. “Those standards were compromised in the lead-up to Saturday’s victory over Ireland with a group of players making the decision to stay out late and consume inappropriate levels of alcohol during the early hours of Wednesday morning.”

McKenzie, a prop in the 1991 World Cup-winning team, has taken a firm stance on discipline since replacing Robbie Deans as Wallabies coach following Australia’s series defeat to the British and Irish Lions in July. He withdrew James O’Connor for a tour to South Africa due to off-field disciplinary reasons before the ARU cut the utility back from its list of contracted players for 2014.

He said the latest incident was a preventative step and not the result of outside pressure.

“Let’s be clear - these are internal sanctions and aren’t a result of any complaints or reports of inappropriate or sinister behavior while our players were out,” McKenzie said. “Instead, we have chosen to address an issue that has come up internally and we are now being up-front about it.

“We’ve done this because we need to continually reinforce the need for our players to make smart decisions to benefit the team.”

“We will always take action in relation to examples of poor culture when it’s warranted. We’ve taken on the challenge of re-defining our team culture.”

The sanctions involved almost half of the 32-man touring squad.

As well as the players who’ll miss a test, Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Saia Fainga’a, Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps were given written disciplinary warnings, while Scott Fardy, Mike Harris, Ben McCalman and Nic White were given verbal warnings.

“There is no doubt having talented players unavailable will put this team under significant pressure but we won’t be using this situation as an excuse,” he said. “I am disappointed on a personal level, but firm action is the best outcome when presented with a scenario like this.”

The start of McKenzie’s coaching stint with the Wallabies has been tumultuous, with home-and-away losses to No. 1-ranked New Zealand and No. 2-ranked South Africa in the Rugby Championship. They did however secure two wins over Argentina in Perth and Rosario. Soon after the championship they were defeated by England at the start of the European Tour.

The wins over Italy and Ireland were the first back-to-back test wins in his coaching reign, which has also included dropping scrumhalf Will Genia for a test due to concerns over his form and replacing veteran lock James Horwill as captain.

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