Dumped Hill blames Beale row
Sydney - Sacked Rebels coach Damien Hill said off-field issues with players including Wallaby Kurtley Beale were a "major factor" in his dumping for ex-Munster chief Tony McGahan on Tuesday.
Hill was dropped from the struggling Super Rugby side this week and McGahan appointed in his place following a disappointing season in which the Australian side won just four games, with one match left before the playoffs.
The Rebels' tour of South Africa was marred by an alcohol-fuelled clash in which captain Gareth Delve was punched by Beale, who was sent home in disgrace and later checked himself into rehab for a drinking problem.
"It probably was a major factor," Hill said of the incident's link to his sacking.
"The behaviours of the playing group on and off the field, someone has to be held accountable and in sport that's the head coach."
Though he regretted the event, Hill said it "really did tighten the group up and through that sort of adversity you get a better group of people and that's what happened".
"The performances we put on the paddock over that six-week or seven-week period would have us sitting fifth on the ladder now," he said.
"We had an excellent back half of the season and I can really see promising things happening for next year as well, so not to be a part of it is disappointing."
The Rebels also announced this week that they were parting ways with Wallaby flyhalf James O'Connor, who - along with Beale - courted controversy during the Lions tour after being photographed in a fast-food restaurant at 04:00.
Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham said the club felt it was time to "start afresh" with a crop of promising new young players, hinting at a personality clash with the brash 22-year-old.
"It was more a selection issue and how the club felt he fitted into the team dynamic," said Higginbotham, adding that he was an "outstanding player" and "no one questions his playing ability".
Higginbotham, who sat out the Lions tour due to injury, said the Rebels were still keen to hold onto Beale, who has been linked to the Waratahs.
"He's a great team player and the rest of the playing group really do enjoy and love playing with him," he said.
"If he sorts out those off-field issues, then there is no issue with him."