Former Wallabies star Phil Kearns has dismissed a report suggesting that he could replace under-fire Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle.
The game in Australia has found itself in turmoil in recent times as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, which has forced the suspension of rugby around the globe and led to cost cutting and slashed salaries of RA staff.
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Castle has found herself under further pressure as a public dispute between RA and the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) has broken out as the association sought full access to the governing body’s financial information after repeated requests.
In a statement released on Saturday morning, the RUPA announced that it had been granted access, but Castle remains under intense scrutiny following widespread criticism of her tenure.
There has reportedly been a growing sense of frustration with power brokers towards those in charge of the game in Australia after Castle declared a performance rating of 72 percent at the union’s annual general meeting on Monday.
At that same meeting, the organisation announced a $9.4 million loss for 2019 over a 12-month period which saw a quarter-final exit by the Wallabies at the World Cup, the Israel Folau saga, severely low attendance figures and numerous high-profile player depart Super Rugby.
Adding to Castle’s woes was RA’s inability to secure a new broadcast deal, culminating in a report from the Daily Telegraph that Kearns is set to take her spot as the most powerful figure in Australian rugby.
The two-time World Cup winning Wallabies hooker looks set to take over the helm of the union, according to a report out of Australia.https://t.co/8tMXTSuS7r
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 4, 2020
However, the 67-test former Wallabies hooker – who won two World Cups and now works as an outspoken commentator for Fox Sports – told foxsports.com.au that he has denied making a play to succeed Castle.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Friday that Castle had retained the full backing of the RA board after having stood down 75 percent of her workforce in a cost cutting measure enforced on the organisation by the coronavirus outbreak.
In what the SMH described as “the most difficult and tumultuous week in the game’s history”, Castle’s dispute with the RUPA boss Justin Harrison was compounded by a powerful group of former Wallabies – Kearns, Rod Kafer and George Gregan advocating for change in power.
With COVID-19 ravaging the sport in Australia, Castle also took a 50 percent pay cut, which is understood to have left her with a salary worth around $400,000, more than what most professional players earn throughout the country.
The pay slash comes as projections indicate a doomsday scenario that RA could face a deficit of a $90 million should no rugby be played for the remainder of the year.
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