Rugby union: Beale faces further punishment after second probe

Wallabies rugby union player Kurtley Beale arrives at the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) headquarters in Sydney for a ARU code of conduct hearing on Oct 24, 2014. Kurtley Beale's return to international rugby faces another potential hurdle this we
Wallabies rugby union player Kurtley Beale arrives at the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) headquarters in Sydney for a ARU code of conduct hearing on Oct 24, 2014. Kurtley Beale's return to international rugby faces another potential hurdle this week, with the conclusion of a disciplinary probe into his row with a then team official on a flight from South Africa to South America last month. -- PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Kurtley Beale's return to international rugby faces another potential hurdle this week, with the conclusion of a disciplinary probe into his row with a then team official on a flight from South Africa to South America last month.

The Wallabies back was cleared to play for Australia again last Friday after being fined A$45,000 (S$50,525) at a Code of Conduct tribunal for sending an obscene message to the same female staff member, Di Patston.

New Wallabies coach Michael Cheika decided not to immediately fly the 25-year-old to Britain for the four-Test tour of Europe but, assistant coach Nathan Grey told reporters in London on Monday, that would be considered once he is fit.

Beale, who has missed Australia's last two Tests, is back in intensive training at the New South Wales Waratahs headquarters in Sydney.

He still faces the possibility of further punishment, though, after the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) "integrity investigation" - an in-house disciplinary process as opposed to last week's independent Code of Conduct Tribunal.

The ARU expects the investigation to be finalised this week.

Beale's friend and fellow back James O'Connor had his ARU contract torn up last year after a similar hearing into an incident where he was escorted from Perth Airport by police.

It was the row with Patston on the flight to Sao Paulo, triggered by Beale being asked to change his T-shirt, that set in motion the chain of events that led to the offensive text messages coming to the attention of the ARU.

As much as the ARU would love to draw a big, thick line underneath it, the text message scandal shows no sign of fading away any time soon.

The comparative lenience of his punishment - few doubt that in most other workplaces in Australia he would have been dismissed - was the result of the tribunal failing to find convincing evidence that Beale had sent a second, more offensive, message.

Exactly who sent the "second text" has become the subject of heated conjecture for both Beale's backers in the media and those who have backed his sacking.

After a month of turmoil which has cost them a highly respected head coach in Ewen McKenzie and a considerable amount of credibility, however, the ARU looks unlikely to pursue the matter.

"If new, relevant information comes to light, we'll investigate that information," an ARU spokesman said.

Beale, who is out of contract at the end of the year, might yet decide to cut his losses and pick up a lucrative contract in rugby league.

Whether or not he ever wins a 48th Wallabies Test, though, the affair has already caused much more damage than a dent in his bank account.

Patston, who resigned as team business manager two weeks ago, has told of feeling "degraded" and contemplating suicide after receiving the picture of a naked, obese woman labelled "Di" that was intended for one of Beale's team-mates.

McKenzie, who brought Patston with him from the Queensland Reds and was forced to deny he had been involved in a romantic relationship with her, also quit, apparently feeling he had "lost" the players over the row after 15 months in charge.