Rugby Australia chairman confirms budget overrun in Wallabies’ dismal World Cup campaign
Rugby Australia Chairman, Hamish McLennan, has acknowledged that the Wallabies’ disastrous recent Rugby World Cup campaign exceeded its budget – but he has no intention of stepping down from his role.
This revelation has added insult to injury for the disgruntled Australian rugby community, as the costly campaign under Eddie Jones resulted in a historic failure to make it out of the group stage, followed by the controversial coach quitting just nine months into a five-year contract.
In an exclusive interview with Stan Sport’s Nick McArdle, McLennan confirmed that the campaign had blown the budget. When asked about the extent of the financial overrun, he stated, “We don’t disclose that but yeah, it did extend the budget… more than we would like.”
McLennan was also questioned about whether he should have exercised tighter financial control over Jones, who is now showing interest in returning to Japan. McLennan had jokingly mentioned “whatever he wants” at Jones’ introductory press conference in January regarding Giteau’s Law.
“He had a budget that he agreed to and I think that was a little bit of a throwaway line at the time,” McLennan said, clarifying his stance.
“What we were trying to do is to ensure that he had every resource so that the coaches couldn’t come back and say we didn’t succeed because we weren’t given the resources that we need. It was nothing more than that.”
The budget overrun will be subject to scrutiny as part of the external review of the World Cup campaign, which Rugby Australia recently announced. This review will be conducted by former Test captain Andrew Slack, ex-Wallaby lock Justin Harrison and experienced consultant Darlene Harrison.
‘For me, I think he needs to walk🚶’
Drew has his say 🗣️ on the Eddie Jones debacle and he doesn’t hold back.
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— GoodBadRugbyAus (@GoodBadRugbyAus) November 3, 2023
McLennan expressed that he would be “bitterly disappointed” if it turned out that Jones had secretly communicated with Japan before the World Cup, although he had not directly confronted Jones on this matter.
“I know what the answer would be. He’s actually claimed that there was absolutely nothing to it. He’s got nothing to go to. But certainly, yeah, the Herald believe there’s absolute truth in that (Zoom interview) too.
“So I think in the fullness of time we’ll find out what’s happened.”
Despite the budget issues, McLennan denied any strained relations with Jones, although their recent communications were mostly limited to messaging. He stood by his decision to hire Jones and had no regrets over the coaching saga, stating that he would make the same decision again if confronted with the same scenario.
McLennan apologised to fans for the disappointing results but expressed his commitment to helping mend a “broken” rugby system. He believed that the Wallabies would have reached the quarter-finals in France if not for injuries to key players like Will Skelton, Taniela Tupou and Tate McDermott prior to their pivotal and unprecedented loss to Fiji.
Looking ahead, McLennan expressed confidence in the plan for upcoming World Cups – the next of which Australia will host in 2027 – and envisioned a transformative future for Australian rugby. He remained resolute in the face of criticism and defended his decision to stay in Paris to represent Australian rugby’s interests in World Rugby meetings, emphasising the potential benefits for the future of the game.
In response to questions about the dominance of Shore School alumni among Rugby Australia’s brass, McLennan dismissed any connection between his school background and his appointment as Chairman in 2020. He also defended RA chief executive Phil Waugh, a former Wallaby player with a successful career outside of rugby, highlighting the unanimous board decision to appoint him.
“It’s bizarrely coincidental,” McLennan said of the Shore School link.
“But again, I was asked to come in in 2020 – I don’t think my school had anything to do with it. I take a little bit of offence to the way ‘Waughy’s’ portrayed in the media about that because he’s a 79-cap Wallaby.”