Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan has been ousted following an extraordinary late-night board meeting.
- Hamish McLennan lost a vote as chairman of Rugby Australia to Daniel Herbert
- McLennan lost the support of six member unions, calling for his resignation
- Rugby Australia has gone through a tumultuous time, highlighted by the Wallabies historic World Cup failure
On Sunday, McLennan vowed to fight to hold onto his position despite six member unions, including Queensland, the ACT and RugbyWA, demanding his resignation.
But McLennan’s bid to keep his job ended on Sunday night after an emergency board meeting.
World Cup-winning Wallaby Daniel Herbert has been named as McLennan’s replacement.
McLennan opted to quit the board entirely rather than remain as a director.
His exit marks the end of an ugly chapter in Australian rugby.
On Friday, the six rebel union members — who also included South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania — took the extraordinary step of sending a letter to the RA board declaring they had lost faith in McLennan following a shambolic year for the code.
The disastrous 2023 campaign culminated in the Wallabies’ worst World Cup performance — failing to progress from the group stage — and coach Eddie Jones walking away 10 months into his five year deal.
The doomed appointment of Jones following the sacking of Dave Rennie in January was seen as a “captain’s pick”, although McLennan claimed the move was supported by the board.
“We do not believe Mr McLennan has been acting in the best interests of our game,” the letter from the state unions read.
“We no longer have any trust or faith in his leadership, or the direction in which he is taking rugby in Australia.”
Initially resisting the call for change, McLennan claimed the states were putting “parochialism and self-interest” ahead of the game.
He said he believed the rebel state unions’ move was directly linked to Queensland and the ACT’s opposition to RA’s procurement of the commercial arm of their Super franchises as part of the high-performance alignment plans which are underway.
McLennan received the public backing of billionaires Andrew and Nicola Forrest, who own the Western Force and therefore constitute one voting member of the Australian Rugby Union.
But it wasn’t enough to save him from the axe.
McLennan was appointed RA chairman of in mid-2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic with the code in dire financial straits.
Since then RA has secured hosting rights for the next men’s World Cup in 2027 and the women’s tournament in 2029.
Herbert played 67 Tests for Australia, and was a part of Wallabies teams that won the 1999 World Cup, 2001 British and Irish Lions series, The Rugby Championship and five straight Bledisloe Cups.
The 49-year-old now faces the huge task of uniting a fractured code.
“It has never been more important for the Rugby Australia board, working with member unions, to come together and execute the reform we absolutely need for an aligned high-performance system and to deliver on the commitments we have made, including to invest in community and women’s rugby,” Herbert said in a statement.
“Australia will host the British and Irish Lions Tour in 2025, the men’s 2027 Rugby World Cup and the women’s 2029 Rugby World Cup and the 2032 Olympic Games.
“The reform we progress now will underpin the competitiveness of our national teams, as well as building deeper engagement with the rugby community and fans everywhere.
“We note that the different member unions are not opposing Rugby Australia’s centralisation proposals and remain committed to supporting high performance alignment.”
Herbert has been on the RA board since 2020.
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