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Cheika explains Ashley-Cooper, Beale omissions

Australia coach Michael Cheika insists the breach of discipline that led to Adam Ashley-Cooper and Kurtley Beale being dropped for Saturday’s Test against England was only a minor one, but nevertheless worthy of sanction.

In a lengthy news conference on Friday, Cheika discussed attempts to “cut out all those little shortcuts” and improve the Wallabies’ team culture.

He confirmed Ashley-Cooper and Beale were left out of Australia’s line-up for having uninvited guests in their hotel rooms earlier in the tour, breaching team policy.

Australia’s player leadership group reported the matter to Cheika this week and he took the decision to leave both players out for his side’s final Test of 2018.

“It’s a relatively minor inter-team rule that we have. No third parties are involved, it’s just inside of our team,” said Cheika. “So our leadership group came to me about it earlier in the week and asked me to deal with it in a way I thought appropriate. And I thought this was the appropriate way.

“We’ve had an inconsistent season because we’ve often taken, I think, a few shortcuts this year, when we’ve needed to go harder and get to the well a bit more and dig a bit deeper.

“We need to just cut out all those little shortcuts. Even though this was a minor thing, I felt like if you keep a grey area there then the grey gets bigger. So we may as well make a stand on it and go from there. They’re the small things I think we’ve got to clamp down on.

“Some might consider [dropping the players] a bit too harsh, but I think that the leaders showed a lot of courage coming to me to point it out because they want to set a standard here, and to make the decision is hard for the lads.

“They [Ashley-Cooper and Beale] were very apologetic. They realised the error in their judgement and they’ve been very, very proactive in trying to help the other players get ready for tomorrow’s game.”

Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper denied there was any disunity in the camp and added: “When we say we’re going to put a line in the sand, it’s important we stick to that. You know, we’ve got big goals as a team. So to be able to do that, you’ve got to do what you say you’re going to do and we didn’t on this occasion.”

Australia will also be without the injured David Pocock on Saturday, with Cheika confirming Peter Samu as the experienced number eight’s replacement.

Hooper said: “We’ve got more than enough faith in Pete to come in, he’s been a real sort of ‘Mr Fix-It’ in those roles and when he has gotten time this year, he’s come up with some really good plays. So [we’re] really happy for him to come in and get a great start over here in this game.

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