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A regretful Ricky Stuart may have to fight to retain the Australian rugby league coaching job despite belated apologies to World Cup referee Ashley Klein and England official Stuart Cummings for his "offensive" behaviour following the Kangaroos' shock loss to New Zealand.
Stuart returns to Sydney from holidaying with his family on the Gold Coast early next week to respond to alleged breaches of the 2008 rugby league World Cup's code of conduct.
The Rugby League International Federation has appointed barrister Robert Weber, SC, to independently investigate complaints from Klein and Cummings that they were abused by Stuart the day after the 34-20 final loss.
The investigation will run its course despite Stuart's admission he behaved "inappropriately".
Depending on the RLIF's findings, Stuart's actions could be a hot topic at the Australian Rugby League's next board meeting in Brisbane on December 9.
Stuart, who landed the top job when Wayne Bennett stepped down at the end of 2005, was appointed until the recent tournament.
Before his apology, five days after clashing with Klein, ARL board members were publicly playing down the possibility his behaviour could threaten his re-appointment.
But the tide has turned and there's now a consensus within rugby league ranks the ARL board may find it difficult to defend Stuart once the RLIF's investigation is completed.
Stuart's manager John Fordham went into damage control on Friday, saying separate apologies had been sent to Klein and Cummings over Stuart's actions towards them in the foyer of a Brisbane hotel last Sunday.
"Still on my mind were the disappointed faces of my players who had worked so hard during the tournament," said Stuart in the apologies.
It's been alleged Stuart called Klein a "f...ing cheat" and "the c... who cost us the World Cup" when he saw the officials in the hotel.
Stuart said losing control in the manner he did was "something which I now deeply regret".
"It's a hard thing for me to admit, but I was certainly not in control of my emotions at the time and acted irresponsibly and irrationally," wrote Stuart in his apology, adding "but that's not an excuse for my behaviour".
There have been calls from across the Tasman for Stuart to quit while former New Zealand coach Graham Lowe described his response to the loss as being as damaging to Australia's sporting image as the infamous under-arm bowling furore in 1981.