Sport360° view: Australian rugby may not survive McKenzie’s scandal

Martyn Thomas 13:46 11/10/2014
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Centre of attention: Beale (l) and McKenzie are both implemented in 'text-gate'.

Ewen McKenzie, once believed to be the man who could save Australian rugby union, now stands on the verge of catalysing its ultimate demise.

Just over a year into his role as head coach, McKenzie has been forced into a staunch defence not only of his reign but also his integrity.

Whether the Wallabies coach and Di Patston, the business manager caught in the centre of the current storm, are romantically involved is largely irrelevant, but her role within the camp does appear to have caused friction.

It was first called into question when she took part in a disciplinary process in Dublin last November despite not being on the European tour in person.

That particular incident saw six players suspended and a further nine sanctioned, and seems to have sewn the seeds of discontent.

It had been hoped that McKenzie could harness the wayward but undoubted talents Australia possess, but with Kurtley Beale it looks as though that mission has failed.

His close relationship with Patston means it is difficult to believe the coach’s claims that he was unaware about the existence of the text messages in question until this week.

If he had known, it would suggest that their sudden appearance in the public domain is a step designed to lever Beale out of the international set-up once and for all.

The utility back is no stranger to controversy and if he is guilty of these latest misdemeanours then it is only right his Australia career is put on hold.

However, it may induce a knock-on effect that the Australian Rugby Union may not be able to recover from.

Israel Folau, Beale’s good friend, is already a target for Toulon and could decide to bring forward a potential move to France to before the World Cup.

Will Genia, although not currently first choice at scrum-half, and the returning Quade Cooper have also both toyed with moves abroad or to rugby league.

At a time when Australian rugby union is on life support – one report has claimed the ARU could be insolvent by next April – such developments could prove terminal.

Although union still leads the way in terms of participation in Australia, it is the poor relation when it comes to revenue.

As every other major nation heads into the autumn internationals with one eye on the World Cup, the Wallabies and McKenzie know they are fighting for survival.

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