The NSW Waratahs’ resistance to forfeiting their Wallabies for an extended Test camp before the Lions series has been inflamed by a needless injury to lock Kane Douglas.
Douglas rolled his ankle while playing a game of touch football in a Wallabies logistics camp on Tuesday as part of a promotion for the British and Irish Lions tour.
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika said the injury will keep him off the training paddock for at least a fortnight, robbing the second-rower of valuable pre-season training.
The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) was already facing a backlash from both NSW and Queensland over the plans to quarantine the Wallabies players three weeks before the three-Test Lions series kicks off on June 22.
Cheika said Super Rugby teams, who released 49 players in total for this week’s two-day camp, had been guaranteed by the ARU there wouldn’t be any physical activity.
But they were surprised to see Douglas suffer his injury in a Wallabies v British Backpackers touch game in a suburban park.
“We were assured there would be no rugby content whatsoever and we’ve had a player injured shooting an advertisement without the correct strapping,” Cheika told AAP.
“He’s now going to start the season with just two weeks of training – that type of stuff makes it (releasing players) hard to swallow.
“I understand mistakes can happen sometime but we can minimise them and that shouldn’t be happening.
“That makes it very difficult to believe in the process when the details aren’t being maintained correctly.”
While Lions coach Warren Gatland hopes Australian provinces will field Wallabies in their pre-Test tour matches, it looks unlikely to occur.
Australian coach Robbie Deans wants to prepare his Test squad in the extended three-week camp from June 1 to safeguard against late injuries and ensure combinations gel.
But it would mean Queensland, who sacrificed their Super bye, would be prevented from fielding their full-strength team in a money-spinning sell-out against the Lions at Suncorp Stadium on June 8.
On the same weekend, the other four Australian sides are playing two Super Rugby derbies, in which the Waratahs have most at stake, potentially losing their entire starting forward pack.
A final decision on quarantining the Wallabies in June has yet to occur despite opposition from the provinces during an ARU high-performance unit (HPU) meeting late last year.
“If we’re taking a consultation approach and the view from all the states at the HPU meeting was this shouldn’t happen,” Cheika said.
“If we’re not being incorporated in the decision, then make the decision and be accountable for it.”