Players sticking together on Beale

WALLABY centurion-in-waiting Adam Ashley-Cooper has backed calls by captain Michael Hooper and teammates to keep Kurtley Beale in the game, at the same time as the future of coach Ewen McKenzie has been questioned.

Beale's future, and also that of the coach, is under review following incidents involving the team's former business manager Di Patston who resigned last Friday. The troubled Beale has been stood down from Saturday's Bledisloe Test against the All Blacks in Brisbane. He will face an ARU independent code of conduct meeting this week after offensive text messages about Patston he allegedly sent to teammates, and inadvertently to Patston, were leaked to the media.

Patston was deeply distressed by the crude nature of the text messages. Questions have subsequently been raised about McKenzie's knowledge of the texts, and whether he should have acted on them.

The coach has reportedly denied he was romantically involved with Patston, but speculation has gathered pace that Waratahs coach Michael Cheika could replace McKenzie after the match against the All Blacks. Ashley-Cooper, who will become just the sixth Wallaby to play 100 Tests on Saturday, threw his support behind his close friend Beale, declaring the talented playmaker should not have his ARU contract torn up.

"The (Beale) situation is very sensitive so I don't really want to talk about it," Ashley-Cooper said yesterday.

"I can't say too much, but I would love to see Kurtley stay in rugby union, one because he is a great bloke, and two because he is an extremely talented player."

Ashley-Cooper said he had spoken to Beale regularly since "textgate" blew up last week.

"He's doing it pretty tough, but he's hanging in and trying to stay positive," he said.

"At the end of the day it's important to understand Kurtley is a teammate, and it's important to get behind a team-mate, that's what we do, we stick together. The last thing we want is to see Kurtley leave the game, but it is out of our hands. There is a process to go through."

On the subject of his 100th Test milestone, Ashley-Cooper said he was glad it would be against the All Blacks.

"If there was a team that I wanted to face in my 100th it is the All Blacks," he said.

"It's kinda where it all started for me in 2007. I got my first real start (against New Zealand) on the wing, we had a win at the SCG and I scored a try that day."

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