Halfback Nick Phipps has passionately denied a culture of misogyny exists in the Wallabies as the fallout from the Kurtley Beale text message scandal continues.
Beale was last week fined $45,000 for mistakenly forwarding an obscene photo to former staff member Di Patston but the scandal threatens to deepen as the Australian Rugby Union’s handling of it comes under increasing scrutiny.
Phipps admitted the controversy had been a distraction as the Wallabies embarked on their five-match tour of Europe and the players badly wanted to put it behind them.
But it was again a hot topic of discussion in London on Monday, with the Wallabies’ nominated interviewees Phipps and defence coach Nathan Grey fielding a range of questions on the issue from Australian and British reporters.
Phipps said while Beale’s actions were wrong he deserved a second chance and would be welcomed back by the players if recalled.
NSW Waratahs star Phipps also refuted a suggestion the scandal was in any way a reflection of the side’s attitude towards women.
“I have noticed a lot of people are sort of talking about people’s views on harassment in the workplace and things like that,” Phipps ahead of Saturday’s tour opener against the Barbarians at Twickenham.
“My mum and sister would kick me in the rear end if they ever thought I was like that.
“It doesn’t reflect at all on the playing group. We’re fully supportive of women in sport and we always will be.”
Phipps added he had worked with many women in positions of power during his rugby career.
“If women are good enough to do the job I’d love them to be there. I find it funny that gender is always brought into it,” said Phipps, who said he did not know enough about Patston’s work as business manager to comment on her directly.
Beale, who reportedly intended to send the text to a teammate, escaped further punishment because an independent ARU tribunal failed to prove he was the source of a second, more offensive, text.
Patston resigned a fortnight ago and has since hit out at the investigation process and claimed she was made to feel “degraded” and “worthless”.
The ARU has come under pressure to investigate who sent the second text message and also the confrontation between Beale and Patston on a flight to Argentina last month.
“All about second chances”
Despite the lingering drama, defensive coach Grey said Beale remains a chance to join his Wallabies teammates in Europe should he prove his fitness and Phipps hopes he will be welcomed back.
“We’re all about second chances aren’t we? He’s the first to say he made a mistake. That’s well documented,” Phipps said.
“What he did wasn’t right in any way. At the end of the day, who doesn’t deserve a chance? It will be great to have him back in the fold.
“I know there are a lot of fans out there who probably aren’t happy at the moment, but time heals.”
Phipps hopes the Wallabies can get rugby back in the headlines for the right reasons when they begin life under new coach Michael Cheika, who took over Ewen McKenzie, who resigned in the wake of the scandal.
“You only have to look on Twitter and see a new article pop up about something and I guess that does affect the boys a little bit,” Phipps said.
“Hopefully over here we can play well enough to get articles written about how the boys are playing.”