Australian stars Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor have escaped disciplinary action despite being pictured at a fast-food restaurant at 3.50 this morning — just three days before the second Test against the Lions in Melbourne.
The pair were photographed with Lions fans at the Melbourne restaurant several hours after watching the Lions beat the Rebels – the team they play for.
Wallaby officials immediately mounted an investigation after the picture appeared on the MailOnline website but played down the incident after interviewing the players separately. The pair insisted they had not been drinking while with Lions players at a function after the game.
The incident is the latest involving Australian sportsman and comes two weeks after Australian cricket Dave Warner was reprimanded for punching England batsman Joe Root in a bar. In a separate incident leading Aussie Rules player Jobe Watson admitted he took a banned drug and the ARU is sensitive to the bigger picture which appears to suggest that leading Australian sport stars cannot keep out of trouble.
Sources close to the Wallaby camp believe it is “ Kurtley Beale Season” and while admitting the players could have returned earlier, blame at the Lions fan who asked for a picture and then, the ARU claim, sent it to the media.
That is why the Australian Rugby Union today insisted; “It is not ideal that the guys were out as late as they were but the players have done nothing wrong.”
Both players are expected to be named tomorrow in the Wallaby starting XV to face the Lions in a match they have to win to keep the series alive
Beale has only just returned to the Wallaby squad after seeking specialist help to deal with a series of alcohol related incidents culminating in a period in a rehabilitation facility in Sydney. He was a replacement in Saturday’s 23-21 first test defeat in Brisbane, slipping while trying to kick a penalty that would have won the match.
An ARU spokesman said: “There has been a full and thorough investigation of the information. The two players were out last night, but they were not drinking – 10 witnesses we have spoken to corroborated that.
“The players went to the Rebels v Lions game with their team-mates and after the game they went back to a function at a club, with other Rebels guys. Lions players were there as well. After leaving, they stopped off to pick up some food on the way home and had pictures taken with some fans.
“Both players are adamant that they didn’t drink and we have checked that out thoroughly. James O’Connor was driving. They have not broken any team protocols. Today is a day off for the squad and there were no commitments until late afternoon.
“These players have done nothing wrong. Within the team protocols, they are expected to behave responsibly and show common sense but there are no curfews in place. They are allowed to go out. It was an historic night for the Rebels – their first game against the Lions – and they both play for that team. It is not ideal that the guys were out as late as they were but it was a Tuesday night and they had free time today.
“In Kurtley’s situation, it is a personal emphasis on him and he is stung by any suggestion that he was on the drink. Since coming back, he has ticked all the boxes and his behaviour has been exemplary.”