SYDNEY (AP) — Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan has been fired at a late night board meeting Sunday in a swift and stern response to the Wallabies’ poor performance at the World Cup in France.
McClennan had previously been defiant in the face of letters from six state or territory unions calling for his resignation, saying he had no intention of standing down.
He pledged to fight for his job at the extraordinary board meeting Sunday but after being ousted as chairman he also resigned as a director. The World Cup-winning Wallaby Daniel Herbert has been named as his replacement.
McLennan was held responsible for the firing of New Zealand-born Wallabies coach Dave Rennie and for the appointment in January of Eddie Jones to a second term as head coach of the Australia team. The decision was characterized as a “captain’s call” in which McLennan acted individually and without the backing of the board.
The Wallabies won only two matches under Jones and were eliminated from the World Cup after the group stage for the first time in their history.
The Queensland, Western Australia, ACT, Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania unions all submitted a letter to the board expressing no confidence in McClennan and calling for his resignation.
“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.”
McLennan accused the unions of putting parochialism and self-interest ahead of the game.
But a majority of the board agreed with the unions and supported the appointment as chairman of Herbert, who played 67 tests for Australia and was part of the Wallabies team that won the 1999 World Cup.
“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, 49, 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.”
McLennan became chairman in 2020, charged initially with ensuring Rugby Australia’s financial survival in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. His tenure was a stormy one, defined by poor Wallabies performances and a deteriorating relationship with New Zealand.
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