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'It sounds pretty logical': Phil Waugh's plan to take Australia back to number one

By AAP
Newly appointed Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh speaks to the media during a Media Opportunity announcing the appointment of Phil Waugh as the new Rugby Australia CEO at Allianz Stadium on June 06, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

Phil Waugh has set the lofty goal of taking Australia to the top of world rugby in all four formats of the game after being formally ushered in as Rugby Australia’s new CEO.

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RA chairman Hamish McLennan confirmed “probably Australia’s worst-kept” secret at a press conference on Tuesday, with Waugh taking over immediately following Andy Marinos’s resignation last month.

McLennan hailed Waugh as “hands down” the best candidate after serving as a non-executive director on the RA board since 2018 while working in the banking sector after retiring from playing 12 years ago.

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The 43-year-old played in two Rugby World Cups, in 2003 and 2007, captained the side in 2006 and racked up 79 Tests during a distinguished career.

Now the former hard-nosed flanker is intent on restoring Australian rugby to the glory days of the late ’90s and early 2000s when the Wallabies won a second World Cup and held the Bledisloe Cup for five straight years.

Despite the Wallabies now being ranked seventh ahead of this year’s global showpiece in France, Waugh is convinced Eddie Jones can lead the side back to the top of the tree.

He also believes the Wallaroos can be the No.1 female team in the world and the men’s and women’s sevens sides can top the rankings.

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“I’ve certainly got high aspiration and belief that we can be the best in the world across all formats and that’s certainly what we’ll be aiming for,” he said.

“We’re just haven’t put consistent performances out on the field. We haven’t won enough trophies and that’s really important.”

A ball boy at the old Allianz Stadium for a clash between the Wallabies and touring British and Irish Lions way back in 1989, Waugh believes his lifelong affinity with the game’s grassroots will be key to a successful tenure.

“I’ve got a very strong affiliation to club rugby. To see the connection with the community is a massive part of my role leading the game in Australia,” he said.

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“It’s really important that we actually go back to that and we put out our best players and simplify into clubs, and then we bring the club’s supporters into Super Rugby and Test matches.

“It sounds pretty logical, but I do think there’s been a huge separation over time. So to actually connect our rugby community and ensure that the game starts and ends in our crops, we need to really invest in that.”

Credited with rescuing Rugby Australia from bankruptcy and steering the organisation from a $27.1 million loss in 2020 to an $8.2 million profit in 2022, Marinos walked away after enduring a robust relationship with McLennan.

Waugh is relishing the chance to work with both the outspoken chairman and Wallabies coach Eddie Jones, who he played under for much of his 79-Test career.

“I say it’s a team effort,” Waugh said.

“You’re always going to have battles, like playing or selection, wherein you have some differences of opinion but when you go out to market you want to be having a united front.

“So I certainly challenge aspects that I may disagree (with), but when we go to market, we then make sure that we’re up in front of people as the united board with the executive.”

Waugh’s appointment comes after another Wallabies great and former Test teammate, Joe Roff, became RA president last month.

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Nickers 57 minutes ago
'One of the poorest All Blacks performances I've seen in a long time'

Extreme hyperbole from Biggar. NZ have played far, far worse than that. The 20/21 team was by far the worst of the professional era. Losses to Argentina, shambolic game against Japan and hapless NH tour of 2021. But even that dreadful team were able to put 50 points on Wales and beat them by 38. Much easier to “tear them to pieces” from the commentary box apparently. Ignored by virtually everyone is how good the ABs defence was. That is why England didn’t win, they simply could not score enough points against that defence. The ABs attack was very average, but their defence was world class and that’s what won them the game. Any Wales team that Biggar has ever played for would have found themselves in the same situation and would definitely not have scored tries from those cross kicks. That ABs team beats Biggar’s best Wales team 31 - 13. England’s attack was as good as it was allowed to be by a superior defence. Hats off to Hansen, he has picked up where MacLeod finally got the ABs to last year and not missed a step. England’s attack will be a big worry for Borthwick. They have not established a reliable, repeatable way to break teams down and score points. They were held to some very low scores by average teams in the 6N, and again here didn’t cross 20 points on either occasion. If I was an England fan I would be crying out for a new attack coach. Borthwick would do well to cast his net now, a poor home winter with a faltering attack will start the calls for his job.

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Thomas 1 hours ago
'Champions get up when they can't': Matt Williams weighs in on Ireland's win over Boks

While both teams have their particular positives, I think neither team should rest on their laurels. South Africa managed to tie a series against an uncomfortable opponent, that has had their numbers for a couple of years, while trial-running a completely new attack system, that still doesn’t work properly. But one aspect of “it doesn’t work yet” is a transition from attack to defense in broken play, as the Boks leaked three tries in two matches this way, and lost the second match as a result. Ireland avoided a series loss in a hostile environment, and in spite of many key player injuries, while managing to significantly improve and tighten their defense in game 2 (which demonstrates the breadth of their squad as well as their ability to adjust and recalibrate). At the same time, their own attack hadn’t amounted to much, either (save from exploiting the gaps in the Boks’ new system, gaps that won’t be there anymore in a few months’ time), and they haven’t found an answer to the Boks scrum, which almost costed them the 2nd match, if it hadn’t been for pretty much unrepeatable Frawley heroics. In the end, there isn’t much that separates those two sides … which is exactly what we knew before the series already. Back to the drawing board for both teams, the work only just begins for two teams with the highest ambition. Start of a cycle alright.

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