Wallabies vice-captain James Slipper says players feel responsible for coach Ewen McKenzie being under pressure ahead of the All Blacks Test.
In a shot in the arm for Ewen McKenzie, vice-captain James Slipper says the Wallabies will fire for the besieged coach on Saturday night after feeling responsible for his current plight.
Slipper on Thursday also hoped to clear the air on the Kurtley Beale saga, saying fellow team leaders Michael Hooper and Adam Ashley-Cooper’s support for the troubled star should not be confused with condoning his actions.
Speculation is rife that McKenzie’s future may hinge on the Bledisloe Cup clash at Suncorp Stadium after a tumultuous fortnight capped by Beale facing a code of conduct hearing for lewd text messages about the ex-Wallabies staffer Di Patston.
McKenzie has been forced to defend instilling former Queensland Reds business manager Patston in the same role at the Wallabies.
But Slipper said the players felt their poor on-field performances – namely their 51-20 loss in their last Test against New Zealand and surprise defeat to Argentina – had ensured McKenzie was feeling the heat.
And they believed there was only one way to rectify it.
“It’s obviously been well documented what sort of pressure he is under and we feel somewhat responsible for that,” Slipper said. “Results can put any coach under pressure.
“With the couple of weeks that we have had we feel it is important that we come out firing.
“The players have the utmost respect for Link (McKenzie) – we have all our confidence behind him.”
Slipper said McKenzie was “hanging in there” in camp amid the recent controversies.
But the Wallabies prop claimed they were a unified camp as they looked to make a statement against one of the best teams in the code’s history.
“The players have been pretty tight with each other,” he said.
“(And) of course we are right behind Link. He’s done a great job since he has been here.
“We are excited about where we are going – it is about making a stand.”
Slipper attempted to ensure there was no confusion surrounding Hooper and 100-Test centre Ashley-Cooper’s support of Beale.
Vice-captain Ashley-Cooper said he would love Beale to remain in rugby while Wallabies skipper Hooper went one step further, claiming the troubled star did not deserve to be sacked.
The pair’s comments are set to be investigated in an ARU internal review of how they handled the controversy after Beale’s independent tribunal hearing concludes next week.
Slipper said Hooper and Ashley-Cooper backed Beale to support a teammate – not his actions.
“What Kurtley did, none of us condone,” Slipper said.
“He has been a teammate of mine for many years now and I am always going to support a teammate.”