James Slipper breaks silence over positive cocaine test – 'I have been suffering from depression for a year'

It's just what Australian rugby didn't need - another high profile player in hot water.

Former Wallabies captain and Reds skipper James Slipper was today banned from the game for two months after it was revealed he returned two positive tests for cocaine.

But the discovery has also thrown his mental health into the spotlight, Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said.

"This is a difficult balancing act and we need to make sure the message is clear his behaviour's unacceptable but taken in context of issues he is facing."

Slipper revealed those off field struggles today in a statement he posted to social media.

"I have been suffering wellness issues including depression for a year," he said.

"In no way do my personal circumstances excuse my actions, but I recognise now that I was not coping.

"I take full responsibility for my actions... there is no place for illicit drugs in sport."

A tribunal met at Rugby Australia HQ last week to discuss the failed results - they took slipper's personal circumstances into account when deciding he'd receive the minimum two month sanction and a $30,000 fine.

The Rugby Union Players’ Association CEO Ross Xenos says the punishment reflects where Slipper is at mentally.

"His first expression and first emotion when he found out about the situation was relief.

"I think that’s an indication of some of the demons he's been battling over the course of the last little while."

Two weeks out from the June internationals, rugby in Australia once again finds itself talking about anything but the game.

The Reds skipper has been banned for two months by Rugby Australia for the failed test. Source: 1 NEWS


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Chiefs welcome back four All Blacks into starting line-up for clash with dangerous Waratahs

The Chiefs are welcoming back four of their All Blacks for this weekend's clash with the in-form Waratahs.

Nathan Harris, Brodie Retallick, Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown all missed last week's match against the Sharks in Durban because of All Black camp commitments but will start on Saturday night in Hamilton.

They will however be missing co-captain Sam Cane who is still recovering from an abdominal injury, leaving Charlie Ngatai to be the sole leader once again.

Ngatai will link up with Lienert-Brown in the centres, having been handed the No.12 jersey once again, despite playing most of his season at fullback.

Assistant coach Neil Barnes says the team is looking to change things up in the backline after struggling to get on the front foot in recent games.

"It's a bit of a see-how-he-goes, we're just playing with our mixes at the moment," Barnes said.

"We thought he did very well in the midfield last week, and he felt quite comfortable there, blew a few cobwebs off."

The Waratahs sit top of the Australian Conference on high spirits after ending the NZ Conference's winning streak against Aussie sides last week with a 41-12 win over the Highlanders.

They also led the Crusaders 29-0 two weeks ago in Christchurch before throwing away their lead in a 31-29 loss.

Chiefs: Solomon Alaimalo, Toni Pulu, Anton Lienert-Brown, Charlie Ngatai (c), Sean Wainui, Damian McKenzie, Brad Weber, Liam Messam, Mitch Karpik, Luke Jacobson, Michael Allardice, Brodie Retallick, Angus Ta'avao, Nathan Harris, Karl Tu'inukuafe.

Reserves: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Sam Prattley, Jeff Thwaites, Jesse Parete, Matt Matich, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Marty McKenzie, Shaun Stevenson.

Chiefs first-five Damian McKenzie passes during the Super 15 Rugby match - Chiefs v Blues played at FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand on Saturday 7 April 2018.

Copyright photo: © Bruce Lim / www.photosport.nz
Chiefs first-five Damian McKenzie in action against the Blues. Source: Photosport


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Highlanders resting four All Blacks as Liam Squire returns from thumb injury to face Reds

All Blacks loose forward Liam Squire is set to play his first Super Rugby match in over two months after being named on the bench for the Highlanders' game against the Reds on Saturday night.

Squire hasn't played since March after he broke his thumb against the Crusaders.

The loose forward's return is a welcome boost for the Highlanders, who are resting All Blacks Ben Smith, Luke Whitelock, Shannon Frizell and Liam Coltman for the match.

The Southerners are also without a third loose forward with Elliot Dixon ruled out due to the elbow injury he collected in last weekend's loss to the Waratahs.

The Highlanders' other two All Blacks, Aaron Smith and Waisake Naholo, will play in Brisbane but Smith will do so off the bench with Kayne Hammington claiming the No. 9 jersey for the fixture.

There's also been a change in coaching staff, with head coach Aaron Mauger stepping away from the match for family reasons - assistant Mark Hammett has stepped in as the interim replacement.

Cantabrian Josh McKay will make his Super Rugby debut in his captain's place at fullback while Tevita Li also returns to the starting line up for Tevita Nebura who was red carded during last week's loss in Sydney.

Highlanders: Josh McKay, Waisake Naholo, Rob Thompson, Tei Walden, Tevita Li, Lima Sopoaga, Kayne Hammington, Marino Mikaele Tu'u, Dillon Hunt, James Lentjes, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Tyrel Lomax, Ash Dixon (captain), Daniel Lienert-Brown.

Reserves: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Aki Seiuli, Kalolo Tuiloma, Josh Dickson, Liam Squire, Aaron Smith, Josh Ioane,Richard Buckman.

Liam Squire of the Highlanders in action. Super Rugby match, Blues v Highlanders at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. 26 February 2016. Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung / www.photosport.nz
Liam Squire of the Highlanders in action against the Blues. Source: Photosport


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