Sunday 21 January 2018

O'Connor and Beale shrug off fast-food fiasco that won't go away

Conor George

Conor George

AUSTRALIAN fast-food renegades James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale attempted to move the discussion on from their midweek shenanigans.

O'Connor took the lead when he delivered a statement citing a "lack of judgment" on their part and a promise that "it will never happen again" before doing his best impression of a police officer trying to move a crowd along from the scene of an accident.

When he finished his statement to the assembled media, the young out-half sought to shut down questioning with a 'nothing more to see here' attitude.

"It's a closed issue now," O'Connor stated boldly. It was clumsy from a player many in Australia believe should have been on bended knees thanking his lucky stars he is still Australia's starting pivot rather than drawing the ire of his team-mates by scoffing fast food and posing for photographs at 4.0am

If people were expecting an act of contrition from O'Connor – and indeed Beale – in their first appearance since their indiscretions were aired, they were disappointed, with both repeatedly sticking to the line that they "had broken no team protocols".

"We have spoken to Robbie (Deans) and our team-mates and it's done and dusted," claimed O'Connor.

It was an extraordinary performance from the 22-year-old. Not only was there a distinct lack of remorse at his behaviour in the middle of the biggest week of his career, but he seemed genuinely annoyed when the matter wasn't simply dropped on his prompting.

It was extremely high-handed from the out-half – "It's done. I've closed it today. It's finished. I'll finish that there, no more questions on that" – as he gave the distinct impression he doesn't believe he did anything out of the ordinary.

Indeed the only lesson he took out of the incident was – "don't go to Burger King early in the morning."

Beale, at least, seemed somewhat more sheepish about his behaviour but stuck with the line that the only injured party in the Wallaby camp was the team's nutritionist.

"I didn't break any protocol," said Beale, "maybe with the nutritionist! I was fine. I was on a day off the next day."

The insistence of the Wallaby camp – and the two individuals involved – that the issue is in the past and will not be revisited is at odds with the suggestion by senior player Adam Ashley-Cooper on Thursday that the players will take steps after the series.

Cooper and hooker Stephen Moore were clearly annoyed at the behaviour of the two playmakers but kicked dealing with it down the road so as not to allow anything distract them during the Test series.

It will be astonishing if now, as has been suggested, they let what must have been an enormous deviation from the team's practices go unpunished by the senior players' group.

Deans' response when questioned was less than emphatic, though.

"I'm reasonably confident it won't happen again," he said. "It wouldn't be good for these blokes or the team."

The Australian camp moved to Sydney yesterday morning where captain James Horwill will have his second disciplinary hearing when the IRB appeal of the original verdict is held.

The appeal will be heard by Graeme Mew from Canada via video conference.

Irish Independent

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