Four former Wallabies captains, including double World Cup-winner John Eales, have spoken out against a call by their counterparts to overhaul the leadership of Rugby Australia.
A letter – reportedly signed by 11 Wallabies skippers, including Nick Farr-Jones, George Gregan and Phil Kearns – was circulated earlier this week saying the governing body was in crisis and the game had ‘lost its way’.
But on Thursday one signatory, Michael Lynagh, said told The Australian he had asked for his name to be removed from the letter as he had not been fully briefed on its contents.
‘This is not the way I do things and I have withdrawn from the whole thing,’ he told the newspaper.
‘It doesn’t mean I don’t support the change but I had quite a few questions about what they were proposing. RA now have a new chairman and three new board members. They have got to be allowed to implement change.’
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Wallabies great Eales, who won the Rugby World Cup in 1991 and led the side to a second win in 1999, joined with former Test captain Mark Loane and ex-Rugby Australia president Tony Shaw to support current interim chair Paul McLean.
‘We all recognise that rugby is going through a very difficult period,’ Eales told the newspaper.
‘I did not sign the letter because I felt it better to act on concerns directly, as a group, with the chairman, as he is already enacting considerable change. Why put it in public?
‘What I know is that there are good people across all levels of rugby working hard to solve complex problems.’
Shaw, who confirmed he had not been approached to sign the letter, said its release had left him ‘gobsmacked’.
‘Why put it in the public domain when you have a chairman, who was a captain, just like you, who’s done every job in rugby known to man – from player, captain, coach, administrator and president – and worked his butt off to work through the pandemic fallout in a short time frame,’ he said.
RA was already suffering financially before the Covid-19 crisis after agreeing a reported multi-million dollar settlement with star try-scorer Israel Folau who was sacked over homophobic comments.
In their letter, the captains criticised the financial management of RA and the lack of a viable long-term commercial plan. The comments have increased pressure on current chief executive Raelene Castle, who is facing persistent rumours that she may be axed.
RA said it ‘values the opinions’ of the former captains and invited them to take part in the ‘current process to review the rugby landscape’.
The Wallabies are languishing seventh in the World Rugby rankings and the game in the country faces fierce competition from other sports that are increasingly gaining traction with wider audiences.
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