Statement from the Wallabies –
Qantas Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has stood down six squad members for one match and sanctioned a further nine for breaches of internal team protocols.
McKenzie said all Qantas Wallabies players are aware of team expectations that they are not to take part in any activities that may impact their ability to perform as a professional athlete.
“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.
“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.”
Following a review of each individual circumstance, McKenzie has handed down varying degrees of punishments from a one-game suspension to written or verbal warnings.
The level of punishment has been determined by the severity of the infraction for each individual and was also based on the expectations of players preparing for the Ireland Test as part of the 23-man match day squad.
The six players to receive a one-game suspension are wingers Adam Ashley Cooper and Nick Cummins; front-rowers Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson and Paddy Ryan; and backrower Liam Gill.
The suspensions will be served in Saturday night’s clash against Scotland at Murrayfield with the exception of Ryan, who will serve his suspension in Australia’s final Spring Tour clash against Wales.
Ryan’s delayed suspension is due to IRB regulations requiring each match day squad to contain at least four props. With only five props chosen in Australia’s 32-man touring squad, one of either Robinson or Ryan is required to participate in each of the upcoming Tests against Scotland and Wales.
Additional sanctions 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.
McKenzie said the punishments were to reinforce high internal cultural standards and not in response to any external investigations or complaints
“The Qantas Wallabies, in conjunction with the ARU, have decided to take significant action in a quest to drive the highest standards off the field,” McKenzie said
“Let’s be clear – these are internal sanctions and aren’t a result of any complaints or reports of inappropriate or sinister behaviour while our players were out. 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.
“The worst thing you could do for the Qantas Wallabies in the long-term is do nothing because that would mean we would be ignoring poor culture and a significant performance issue.
“We will always take action in relation to examples of poor culture when it’s warranted – doing nothing to address poor behaviour will never be an option. We’ve taken on the challenge of re-defining our team culture.
“This is not a simple process but it needs to happen so we can have a chance to be the best team we can be. Already this year we’ve spent a lot of time being crystal clear around behaviours to ensure we are in a position to take the step-up to the next level.
“The reality is that if we are going to reach these levels, the players need to be making the right decisions as professional athletes and need to do everything possible to perform at their best for each Test.
“We also need to recognise the players who are doing the right thing and ensure our behaviours are in-line with the expectations of our stakeholders and our fan base.”
McKenzie said the sanctions also wouldn’t be used as an excuse for poor performance against Scotland at Murrayfield.
“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.
“For us, this is a great opportunity to circle the wagons and re-calibrate our behaviours to get back on track off the field.
“I am disappointed on a personal level, but firm action is the best outcome when presented with a scenario like this. You need to deal with issues to ensure everyone can be accountable for their actions.
“The players involved have accepted the outcomes and we’ll concentrate on moving on and making the best of the situation. Our entire focus remains on beating Scotland.”