Senior statesman Adam Ashley-Cooper insists the Wallabies are united and behind under-siege coach Ewen McKenzie.
A besieged Ewen McKenzie has retained the support of his under-performing Wallabies squad following a clear-the-air team meeting to address fall-out from the Kurtley Beale texting scandal.
As speculation mounts that McKenzie may be replaced before next month’s spring tour of Europe, vice-captain Adam Ashley-Cooper said he wanted the coach to keep his post heading into their 2015 World Cup campaign.
The senior statesman of the side, preparing for his 100th Test on Saturday night against the All Blacks, was among six players put out when stood down by McKenzie for a late-night bonding session in Dublin last year.
Under-currents of friction appear to have festered in the squad since but Ashley-Cooper denied the Wallabies were a divided team.
He was guarded about his thoughts on the “sensitive situation” surrounding Beale’s lewd and offensive messages related to business manager Di Patston in June but threw his full support behind his NSW Waratahs centre partner on Monday.
Although the 99-Test veteran had less to say about McKenzie’s position, he was adamant the team backed the coach and wanted him to remain for the five-week spring tour.
“It’s important there’s not too many changes made and we get back to winning,” said Ashley-Cooper, who spoke positively about the importance of Sunday night’s team meeting.
“(McKenzie) basically opened up the group and asked us what we can do better, was there any ideas the players had?
“There was some good points raised in terms of detail and the playing group being more accurate and how we can go about training.
“Just basically lifting an extra 10-20 per cent which is what’s required to beat the best in the world.”
Beale faces a code of conduct hearing next week but his future in Australian rugby appears in grave doubt following publication on Monday of the text messages between himself and Patston.
The texts leaked to News Corp indicate Beale begged for forgiveness from Patston after he inadvertently sent her two crude and humiliating text message pictures before the first Test against France in Brisbane in June.
A distressed Patston agreed to forgive the 25-year-old and not reveal the texts to McKenzie or the Australian Rugby Union.
The leaked messages appear to support the under-pressure coach’s insistence he didn’t learn about the embarrassing exchange until after Beale and Patston’s mid-air spat on the way to Argentina two weeks ago.
A day after captain Michael Hooper said he hoped Beale wouldn’t be sacked, Ashley-Cooper also backed the troubled star to the hilt.
“One, because he is a good bloke and, two, because he is an extremely talented football player,” he said. “He’s been doing it pretty tough.
“But I have spoken to Kurtley a number of times and he’s hanging in there. He’s staying positive, which pleases me.
“At the end of the day, it’s important to understand that Kurtley is a teammate and you are always going to get behind a teammate. That’s what you do. You unite.
“We stick together – that’s coaching staff included – we are a team, we’re one team.”
With Beale suspended indefinitely, Christian Leali’ifano is set to be named at inside centre when McKenzie name his team to play the All Blacks on Tuesday.
New Zealand flew into Brisbane on Monday afternoon but regular pot-stirring coach Steve Hansen preferred to keep his opinions about the Wallabies current mess to himself.
ARU boss Bill Pulver also backed McKenzie to lead the Wallabies on the spring tour, denying a News Ltd newspaper report that a potential coaching change was imminent.
“I can confirm the ARU has not had any conversations with any other coaches regarding the Wallabies coaching position,” Pulver said.
“Ewen is coaching the team this weekend and next Friday, he will board the plane with the team for the spring tour and is contracted to Australian Rugby to lead the Wallabies to next year’s Rugby World Cup.”