McKenzie takes the hard road
McKenzie takes the hard roadSHARE
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie made the decision to suspend six players for breaking team protocol with the long-term interests of the side in mind.
His action comes as a result of a group of players staying out past team curfew and drinking too much in the build-up to their clash with Ireland in Dublin last week.
The six players to receive a one-game suspension are wings Adam Ashley-Cooper and Nick Cummins; front row forwards Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson and Paddy Ryan; as well as flank Liam Gill and will see all except Ryan miss this weekend's match against Scotland.
Nine other players received additional sanctions, which were broken into written (Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Saia Fainga'a, Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps), or verbal (Scott Fardy, Mike Harris, Ben McCalman and Nic White) disciplinary warnings.
The Wallabies boss said that he felt it was crucial to act, rather than ignore the incident, as he would like to establish a positive culture which will best serve the long-term interests of the team.
"The easiest thing to do in these situations is to do nothing," McKenzie said in Edinburgh. "But to do nothing will give you mediocrity.
"Everyone wants to win a World Cup but it's the behaviours that will get you there. You have to concentrate on the behaviours.
"It (culture) is the glue that actually binds a team together. It's what is going to make a difference," he added.
The Wallabies have been hit by a number of off-field incidents in recent years, with former coach Robbie Deans taking a softer stance on the indiscretions of high-profile players such as Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor, but McKenzie is clearly not willing to let the players take advantage in the same way.
"They've been given the privilege of being a Wallaby.. And with that becomes a responsibility.
"This business is about making sacrifices. It's not about going on a Contiki tour of countries. This is not a pub trip," he said.
He explained that by making an example of these players he is setting a standard that will make them a stronger unit in future.
"Every team I have been involved with before, if you can manage a team culture and get a strength in that area it can give you the advantage you need to be a championship side," he said.
"I'm in the business to make the team that's best as possible. I've been there before.
"I want to help these players get there but you have to display championship behaviours; not behaviours that are consistent with some sort of club trip," said the Wallabies coach.
The decision was welcomed by former scrumhalf George Gregan who is the most-capped Test player of all time.
"You are always on display as a Wallaby and people are watching you and there's a certain level of expectation when you are representing the Wallabies..
"Culture is based on behaviour and he's setting that down very, very early and that's one of the things you have to commend him for…players will get an understanding of what's expected.
"If you don't it's not good for the team environment," he said.
Although the suspensions will not impact the starting forward pack against Scotland, McKenzie will have to be creative with his backline selection as both wings will sit out and outside centre Tevita Kuridrani faces a suspension for his dangerous tackle against Ireland.