The ‘Three Amigos’ – more trouble than they’re worth?

James O’Connor’s best friend this week would appear, bizarrely, to be Manu Tuilagi. The completely overblown furore that erupted over ‘bunnygate’ has masked a more serious story of a young player stepping out of line. It was reported earlier this week that O’Connor was denied boarding of a team flight at Perth airport for reportedly being too drunk, but (in the Northern Hemisphere at least) this story has gone largely under the radar thanks to the non-event that is the Tuilagi and Cameron incident. The ARU have opened an investigation into the incident which is ‘ongoing’.

three amigosO’Connor is part of the unfortunately self-styled ‘Three Amigos’ – along with Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale – who have become notorious for making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Cooper famously called the environment in the Wallaby camp ‘toxic’ on a television programme, rather than taking any concerns he had to the senior management to work on it. He was, as a result (and quite rightly), dropped from the squad.

Kurtley Beale’s incidents with alcohol in the recent past have been well documented, the worst moment coming when he allegedly attacked his team captain and another player on a bus back from a heavy loss for his franchise the Rebels. To be fair to Beale he has admitted his mistakes and has since undertaken rehab.

Before we jump to conclusions and chastise O’Connor and his chums too much, we must take a step back. All players should be allowed to enjoy themselves after a game and rugby, of course, has an ingrained culture of taking that enjoyment to notorious levels. No one is saying O’Connor shouldn’t be allowed to have a few beers.

The issue is this: with a record such as his, does he not realise it might be sensible to reign it in a bit when you know you’re going to be out in public? Getting so plastered you are refused entry to a flight might be hilarious on a stag do, but when you’re a professional rugby player with a poor disciplinary record it shows nothing less than terrible judgement. Whether he likes it or not he is a role-model, and that type of behaviour is just not acceptable.

Of course the problem is far more deep-seated than the alcohol issues. The so-called ‘Three Amigos’ have shown a disregard for their peers and their superiors on numerous occasions now. The celebrity life afforded them seems to have gone to their head to the point where they think they are bigger than the team. That is surely one thing that is unacceptable in rugby.

Even worse than all of that – in my opinion anyway – came after the recent Wallaby loss to New Zealand, their second in as many weeks. Michael Lynagh – a man in a far better position than myself to comment on something like this – picked up on it on the Sky coverage: O’Connor was seen laughing and joking around moments after another crushing defeat to their closest rivals.

Lynagh himself was distraught in the studio – why was O’Connor, having just played in the game himself, not experiencing the same emotions multiplied many times over? Does it not mean as much to him now as it did in Lynagh’s day? Anyone who has played and cared about rugby (or sport in general, for that matter) should know that it is no fun to lose, especially to your fiercest rival. When that stops mattering to you, what is left? Are you ever likely to truly be giving your all?

A superb article in the Sydney Morning Herald recently went into more detail about this apparent lack of desire in what they called the ‘20% of the squad that lets down the other 80%’. If you have not read it yet, I urge you to follow that link and do so.

The Three Amigos are undoubtedly prodigiously talented, which is ironically what has propelled them to super-stardom and all the baggage that has come with it. They are capable of things on the rugby pitch that others simply are not, but there surely comes a point when that ability is outweighed by the off-field dramas and disregard for the rules and respect of your teammates. And it is not like they don’t have decent replacements in these positions – we are not talking about front five players here. Australia do not want for quality backs.

While Tuilagi’s actions were immature, they were also harmless. No one can say Tuilagi does not care about the teams he plays for, or thinks he is above everyone else – you simply do not survive in an environment like the Tigers with an attitude like that. Conversely, O’Connor has just been dropped from the books at the Melbourne Rebels, the newest Australian franchise and one that, frankly, is hardly in a position to cast off its biggest name lightly. That speaks volumes.

At what point do the ARU cut their losses and say enough is enough? It must be fast approaching.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Title photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images
‘Three Amigos’ photo courtesy of Green and Gold Rugby

12 thoughts on “The ‘Three Amigos’ – more trouble than they’re worth?

  1. Very thought provoking argument there. Can’t say I saw the Australian players reactions after losing to the All Black’s, but if it’s true that O’Connor looked like he didn’t give a toss them that in itself merits being dropped from the squad.

    Nothing worse than giving your all on the rugby pitch (only the lose the games that matter) and having some tosser just stroll off into the bar completely not bothered. Imagine if this was the case with someone in the England vs Wales 6ns game? Indeed it was that kind of backlash after the 2011 RWC that bought about such radical change in the England camp.

  2. Imagine that was an England player, or Danny Cipriani or Gavin Henson?

    What actions would be taken by clubs if it were the latter two?

    Danny Care got dropped from the England set up entirely, after ‘undesirable off field situations’ and then played some of the best rugby of his career.

    Sometimes it just takes the chop to provide the kick up the backside.

    1. Whilst I agree to an extent, do you really think Cipriani wouldn’t be in the England squad if he was playing the sort of rugby we saw him play in 2007/8? No chance, he’d be in there.

      Care as well, whilst the incident caused the ban, was hardly on form. You’re talking about a different level of player with these three.

      I do agree there needs to be a limit, but it’s a bigger decision when they’re that talented.

      1. Cipriani was dropped in 2008 for visiting a nightclub after hours. I cannot believe that Lancaster would not react in the same way as Ashton did at the time.

        As for Care, he was the form scrum half at the time and was dropped not just from the team but from the squad entirely for the length of the 6 Nations.

        The potential that O’Connor, Beale and Cooper have is huge but no-one can claim they’ve lived up to it so far. In 10 years time, no-one will be mentioning them as amongst the greats of the game.

        Its good to see the Rebels taking action. If Australia followed suit then it might teach them a lesson. After all, without rugby, what are they? Where is their celebrity then?

        As for a bigger limit for ‘talented’ players, I can imagine nothing more disastrous for a team’s morale.

        1. Good point on Cipriani to be fair. Was that not before he had even got his first cap to be fair? So slightly different situation to these three.

          And I don’t think Care has ever been in the kind of form that puts him in the category with these three either, particularly with Youngs around.

          Completely agree, and I’m pleased to see the Rebels do what they have done. My point is dropping players of their caliber (so rules our Care and Cipriani), takes serious balls.

        2. Its hardly important in Australia…….Union is after all a fourth grade backyard sport
          in Australia with little public impact compared to Australian Rules and NRL.

          Its a bit like misbehaviour by a boomerang thrower…..although there are more of
          those than Rugby players…..but nobody will notice O’Connor disappearing….he’s
          already hardly on the public’s radar

  3. Difficult one because where do you draw the line? Obviously there are issues with all of them, but would you group them all together? Drop one of them?

    They are also very talented. Toomua over Cooper? Mogg over Beale? Cummins over O’Connor? Whilst the alternatives are very talented, they are not in the same league, in my opinion.

    If the drops them, and Australia continue to lose, can you imagine the back lash he’d get? Deans got a lot of stick for not playing Cooper after what he did; it is difficult.

  4. Young James O’Connor had better behave himself or he will find himself out in the cold.The O,Connors of this world , good as they are , are in a priveleged position, and should remember they are not bigger than our great game! Ma Nono has found himself out in the cold with respect to Super Rugby Franchises in New Zealand(not for same reasons i hasten to add) however he has been fortunate to find himself in the Top 14 with Clermont(maybe not quite Super Rugby) James might not be so lucky. Sort yourself out son or you will find yourself on the scrap heap!

  5. There are two types of team player; those that bring energy to the team, and those that suck energy out of the team.

    Individual ability does not outweigh the latter, in team success. Ever.

  6. Its hardly important in Australia…….Union is after all a fourth grade backyard sport in Australia with little public impact compared to Australian Rules and NRL.

    Its a bit like misbehaviour by a boomerang thrower…..although there are more of those than Rugby players…..but nobody will notice O’Connor

  7. Given England and Wales r in the same World Cup pool as Australia, they’re going to need to get their act together.

    As an England fan I’m delighted as I don’t see the resolve to take the tough calls to address these issues nor the recognition of Blub’s point of just how corrosive the behaviour is to the Aussie team.

    But as a rugby fan it’s sad to see given how much a good Aussie team adds to World rugby.

    1. St Maul – I would love to be able to take credit for this perspective – as I fully support it (both in Business and in sport) – but I can’t. I read it somewhere.

      Possibly in the Bill Walsh book; “The Score will take care of itself” (recommended by Stuart Lancaster).

      Either way, I have found it a very successful perspective both at work, and in my coaching.

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