The week after Darcy Swain was suspended for headbutting the Englishman who pulled his hair in Perth, the Wallabies lock took on a new persona at training: the Englishman who pulled his hair in Perth.
Tasked with on-field role-playing to help the Wallabies prepare for the second Test, Swain stepped into the shoes of Jonny Hill, his nemesis in several off-the-ball incidents in Perth. He stopped short of hair-pulling but Swain dialled up the annoyance factor to mimic Hill’s style.
“I was just trying to be a pest and slap arms and come through the maul and all of that,” Swain said. “My role changed to help prepare the lads, but it was pretty insightful to be on the other side.”
Swain didn’t have to try to elicit an ill-tempered reaction from his Wallabies replacement but it was obvious enough that when he returns to the field – likely this Sunday against Argentina – there will be no shortage of rivals lining up to bait the Brumbies lock again.
England denied deliberately trying to push Swain to a card-worthy flash of anger, but in giving his testimony to World Rugby’s judicial panel, the 25-year-old expressed “disappointment” he’d fallen into their trap.
“‘Rens’ [Dave Rennie] and Dan [McKellar] both spoke to me and said, ‘You’ll be a target now’,” Swain told the Herald.
Darcy Swain has his hair pulled by Jonny Hill.Credit:Stan Sport
“You can take that one of two ways. Just wear it and play harder. You just have to cold-face that stuff and walk past it. I just can’t react to that sort of shit because no doubt it will happen again. I am not going to cut my hair.
“If they try and do it again to get something out of me, it’ll just give me more motivation. It’s been a learning curve for me about how to handle that stuff, so going forward it’ll just be a cold face and try and walk straight past that sort of shit.”
Swain is a heart-on-sleeve player who says he loves a fiery clash with a rival, but he is concerned the impulsive headbutt in Perth will wrongly paint him as dirty.
“I like to play the game hard and fair. Of course there is always niggle and you may have a bit of a scruff with one bloke or two blokes, your opposition lock, but you do that legally,” Swain said.
Darcy Swain is show a red card by referee James Doleman.Credit:AP
“I remember ‘MP’ [Matt Philip] and I going at it in an NRC game and afterwards we shook hands and said ‘solid game’. I love doing that. But in terms of all the other crap, I wouldn’t be doing it.”
Swain said he was still not impressed by Hill’s tactics in Perth. The English forward shoved him in the face near a ruck and then tried to stop Swain from busting up a maul by pulling his hair.
“It is a bit wrong isn’t it? It is not really in the spirit of the game to go around and carry on like that,” he said. “You niggle blokes but you do it legally and you do it through bossing yourself in other ways, not like that.”
Hill’s behaviour set a grubby tone for the English through the whole series. They later said they’d been irked by some mild comments in the media by the Wallabies.
Darcy Swain back on the training field.Credit:Getty
Swain cut a lonely figure in a buoyant Australian dressing room in Perth, after the Wallabies survived his red card and beat England in the first Test.
“It was disappointing to let the boys down,” he said.
“Even though we’d won, they had to do all sorts of things to just survive and get through that game. And we spoke about how that builds character but at the same time we could have done that with 15 men on the field.”
The Wallabies’ second-row stocks have stabilised somewhat, with Swain and Rory Arnold rejoining the squad for the two-Test tour of Argentina, which begins with a clash in Mendoza on Sunday morning (AEST).
Swain will be a strong chance to slot back into the Wallabies starting pack, given Arnold is coming off a break and had a calf issue last week.
The Pumas pack will be a strong challenge, Swain said.
“We have previewed them pretty hard, they’re big boys and they pretty well just run their team,” he said. “If they have a good day, the team has a good day, so we just have to make sure we are solid up front.”
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