AUSTRALIA’S recent captain James Horwill has denied that the Wallaby camp is at the mercy of a “drinking culture” as he prepares to face Scotland without five of the team’s leading players.
The quintet of Adam Ashley-Cooper, Nick Cummins, Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Liam Gill were all suspended by coach Ewen McKenzie, along with prop Paddy Ryan, who will sit out next week’s game against Wales as the team needs another prop on the bench this week, for drinking into the early hours of last Wednesday in Dublin.
There had been a team dinner and Wednesday was their day off, and although they played against Ireland on Saturday and won with arguably their best performance of the year, McKenzie came down hard on the players when news of the drinking session emerged. His predecessor Robbie Deans also battled player indiscipline, which cost the Wallabies Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor and Quade Cooper for long spells after alcohol-fuelled incidents.
Horwill, however, insisted that drinking was not widespread in Australian rugby.
“I don’t think that there is a problem. Guys have made decisions and they are being judged on those decisions. This was an individual event.”
The man who who captained Australia against the British and Irish Lions in the summer added: “Ewen McKenzie is big on individuals making decisions for themselves, and making the right decisions. What has happened previously [the Beale and O’Connor incidents], has happened previously. We’ve got a new coach now.
“He has a clean sheet and he is judging everything based on what he sees. It is not about what has happened in the past. He made that very clear from day one, and he has done that with every team I’ve been involved in. Each new coach brings a new style and a new way of doing things, but we want guys making decisions on their own,”
There is a midweek drinking ban but Horwill said total prohibition was not needed.
He added: “It is important that, when you have successes with anything in life, that you are able to celebrate it. You don’t want to take too many drastic measures and we don’t want to turn guys into robots. Ewen wants them to make good decisions all the time – that is what he is trying to promote.”