Troubled Rugby Australia gets 'reset' with new chairperson

Dave Rennie (Getty Images)
Dave Rennie (Getty Images)

Rugby Australia on Friday named former TV executive Hamish McLennan as director and chairperson-elect to lead the sport through a crisis deepened by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Hamish's appointment marks a new era as we reset Rugby Australia and our game with a focus on the future," said interim chairperson Paul McLean.

McLennan will lead a sport in disarray, with the Wallabies languishing at seventh in the world rankings and Rugby Australia facing financial difficulties as well as fierce competition from other codes.

However, Rugby Australia also said it had been promised A$14.2m from World Rugby to help weather the crisis.

"The financial implications of the virus have been significant for Rugby Australia and this emergency relief funding will provide us with certainty for the next twelve months and enable us to close off our 2019 accounts," said interim CEO Rob Clarke.

The game has effectively been shut down in Australia during the coronavirus pandemic, but plans have been drawn up to restart domestic play around early July.

McLennan said he was "looking forward to working with the board to rebuild trust across the rugby community, in particular the grassroots game".

"Rugby has a deep heritage and strong community support in Australia, and everyone wants to see our Wallabies consistently win again," he added. 

"I think the Rugby World Cup bid for 2027 creates an enormous opportunity for the country."

McLennan arrives after a period of extraordinary upheaval for Rugby Australia which has included the resignation of chief executive Raelene Castle a month ago and the sudden departure last week of another director, Peter Wiggs, who had been widely tipped to become the next chairperson.

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