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Wallabies captains call for Rugby Australia bosses to ‘stand aside’

Under pressure: Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle © AFP / Saeed KHAN

SYDNEY, Australia, Apr 21 – Almost a dozen former Wallabies captains have called on the leadership of rugby’s governing body in Australia to step aside, domestic media reported Tuesday.

The letter — reportedly signed by 11 Wallabies skippers, including greats such as Nick Farr-Jones, George Gregan and Michael Lynagh — says rugby in Australia is in crisis.

“In recent times, the Australian game has lost its way,” the Australian newspaper quoted the letter as saying.

“It is a defeat inflicted not by COVID-19, or an on-field foe, but rather by poor administration and leadership over a number of years.”

With Australia languishing seventh in the world rugby rankings, the game Down Under faces fierce competition from other sports and a hefty bill after firing star try-scorer Israel Folau for homophobic comments, an incident that ended with a large pay-out.

In their criticism, captains singled out the financial management of Rugby Australia, which was already struggling before the coronavirus crisis hit, and its lack of a viable long-term commercial plan.

“We speak as one voice when we say Australian rugby needs new vision, leadership and a plan for the future.

“It is with this in mind we ask the current administration to heed our call and stand aside to allow the game to be transformed so we emerge from this pandemic with a renewed sense of unity and purpose,” the letter is reported to say.

The comments heap pressure on current chief executive Raelene Castle, who has faced repeated rumours that she may be axed.

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Rugby Australia said it “values the opinions” of the former captains and invited them to take part in the “current process to review the rugby landscape”.

“I have been in contact with a member of the group today and have offered to arrange a meeting with the full board as soon as is reasonably practicable,” Rugby Australia chairman Paul McLean, who is also a former Wallabies captain, said in a statement.

“These are respected former Wallabies Captains and the board would value their input as we work through the challenges that rugby has faced over the last few years and that have been amplified by the coronavirus pandemic.”

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