Former Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels chief executive Rob Clarke has been appointed interim CEO of Rugby Australia. Clarke returns to Rugby Australia following two previous stints as chief operating officer, working under former chief executives Gary Flowers and Bill Pulver. A former Australian schoolboys representative, Clarke stepped out of rugby administration in mid-2017 after a decade serving in various senior leadership roles across the game and has since been running a consultancy business.

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It was April 23 when Raelene Castle was ousted as CEO, but Clarke said he has no intentions of pursuing the role on a permanent basis although he was honoured to be approached to lead the organisation for an interim period while it continues to address the COVID-19 crisis.

“I was sounded out by the chairman on my interest and availability to lead the organisation in a short-term capacity and I have accepted the role on that basis,” said Clarke. “From my perspective, the opportunity and the timing were right, especially while things are on hold with some of my other pursuits during this current pandemic.

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“I have worked with Paul McLean and other directors previously at Rugby Australia, as well as a number of the senior management staff and will be able to commence the role immediately and hit the ground running, which is what is needed at this time.

“The game is facing some unprecedented challenges and like all rugby supporters and people working within the game, I want to see Australian rugby get through this and emerge on the other side with greater certainty and a positive outlook. That is a challenge that I am very willing to take on and that’s what the focus will be over the next few months while the board conducts its search for a permanent CEO. I will not be entering the process for the permanent role.”

Rugby Australia had earlier suffered further upheaval on Wednesday with the messy resignation of board member Peter Wiggs. Touted as RA’s next chairman since his arrival in March, Wiggs had been pushing for Australian Olympic committee boss Matt Carroll to immediately succeed the departed Castle.

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However, fellow board members pushed back on Wiggs’ hasty plans that would have skipped any formal recruitment or interview process and they instead opted to back Clarke on an interim basis. Rugby Australia chairman Paul McLean said: “Rob is an extremely capable and experienced leader who has vast experience in rugby and his immediate availability has enabled us to secure his expertise for an interim period while we conduct a comprehensive search for the next CEO.

“Rob’s primary role will be to lead the management team and to implement the board’s restructure plans while our work continues to get rugby back on the field at both the community and professional levels.

“Our absolute priority is to get the game back up and running across the country and supporting our community so that the game is in the best position to move forward from this current period of uncertainty in a position of good health. We believe Rob is the right person to enable us to achieve those objectives.”

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