Rugby Australia’s succession plan has suffered another jolt with the messy resignation of board member Peter Wiggs after an email exchange with the man many expected him to replace.

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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 departed chief executive Raelene Castle.

Interim chairman and acting CEO Paul McLean entertained the prospect, according to emails published by The Australian on Wednesday.

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The Breakdown | Episode 15

However, citing a conflict of interest because of Wiggs’ friendship with Carroll, McLean suggested the former remain as a director and instead promote incoming board member Hamish McLennan to the position of chairman.

Fellow board members had reportedly pushed back on Wiggs’ hasty plans that would have skipped any formal recruitment or interview process.

Supercars chairman Wiggs, instrumental in steering RA’s player pay-cut deal during his brief rugby posting, replied by saying what little regard he had for the board had “extinguished” and he would resign on Wednesday.

Confirming Wiggs had done just that, McLean said he “understood his reasons” for departing.

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“He has undertaken some very important work and has made a valuable contribution to the organisation, in a very short time, and we are thankful for his contribution,” McLean said.

“The immediate priority of the board is to install a replacement for Peter, and an interim chief executive.”

McLennan, a former Network Ten boss and News Corp senior executive, now appears a frontrunner to assume the chairmanship.

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Former RA chief operating officer Rob Clarke, who left the organisation in 2017 after also serving as the Brumbies and Rebels boss, is among those tipped to serve as interim CEO.

The messy exit of Wiggs is the latest setback for RA as the cash-strapped organisation navigates a way back to the field while trying to negotiate a new broadcast deal.

A return to play committee is behind the code’s push to launch a revamped domestic Super Rugby season in July, while a Bledisloe Cup series remains a prospect later this year.

RA, awaiting rescue funds from World Rugby, faces a potential revenue hit of $120 million if no play is possible in 2020.

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