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ARU face backlash from Super Rugby franchises

Scott Higginbotham and Kurtley Beale could be quarantined from rugby by the ARU

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Article Published: Wednesday 16 January 2013|

The Australian Rugby Union are facing a backlash from their Super Rugby franchises after plans were revealed to quarantine Wallabies players three weeks before the British and Irish Lions Test series.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans understandably wants the best preparation for the Lions Test series and is planning an extended camp before the first Test on the 22nd of June.

Deans' Wallaby camp would pull all of Australia's best players out of Super Rugby for the weeks ahead of the Lions tour.

The Reds play the British and Irish Lions two weeks before the first Test and they were hoping for a sell out at Suncorp Stadium and are desperate to have stars such as Will Genia, Quade Cooper, James Horwill and Digby Ioane available so that they can field a full strength team in front of 52,000 on June the 8th.

The other four Australian Super Rugby matches have derbies against each other and if the Wallabies are pulled out of the franchises weaker Super Rugby franchises could benefit by playing a weakened team allow them to pick up vital conference points.

The Western Force play the Waratahs on June the 9th while the Brumbies host the Melbourne Rebels who could be without the likes of Kurtley Beale, James O'Connor and Scott Higginbotham.

The ARU have denied that a final decision has been reached and say that discussions are ongoing but some Super Rugby franchise officials don't expect to have their players released by the Wallabies despite their protests at a high-performance meeting last year.

Reds coach Ewen McKenzie and his Waratahs counterpart Michael Cheika have both told AAP that they want their players available and feel that the players would benefit from being released to play.

McKenzie said that the Super Rugby franchises have already made compromises by allowing their top players to attend Wallabies camps such as the one this week where the Reds sent 16 and the Waratahs sent 13 of the total 49 players that assembled in Sydney.

"We're doing our best to help but we've still got a brand and competition to run," McKenzie told AAP.

"There's the interest in Super Rugby and once you start pulling players out you devalue that.

"There was a lot of criticism last year about where the Australian teams sat in the competition and the relative strength of the local conference, so dismantling (teams doesn't help).

"You have to be mindful. Most businesses don't keep all their eggs in one basket."

Cheika said that the Waratahs could be robbed of 10 Test players by a pre-Lions camp and therefore be forced to field a second-string forward pack for their round-17 trip to Perth.

"We don't think it's right," he said.

"That's two weeks out from the (first Test) and if the players don't play in that game then it's three weeks with no playing.

"Match fitness is a very important thing."

Cheika said that he had no problem with releasing his Test players for the British and Irish Lions Tests but is hoping that the Waratahs play off chances will not be jeopardised having to play a weakened team against a full strength Force team.

"For us it's a very important match in Super Rugby against a fellow Australian province," he said.

"It's a big thing because, for us, it could mean up to 10 players.

"It's the same for all teams but we're going to feel the heat a lot more (than the Reds) because we're playing a competition game."

The Wallabies camps will also not make British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland a happy man as he wants the Lions to be battle hardened by the time the Tests come around and was hoping that his players would tested by Australia's best players in the warm up matches.

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