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Wiggs resigns from Rugby Australia board as Clarke appointed interim CEO

Dan Carter tackles Kurtley Beale during the New Zealand v Australia Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham Stadium on October 31st 2015 in London (Photo by Tom Jenkins/Getty Images)

Peter Wiggs has resigned as board director from the Rugby Australia, the national governing body for rugby union in Australia, a little over a month into the role.

Wiggs had been regarded as a leading candidate to become chief executive, but tendered his resignation on Wednesday.

Private equity veteran Wiggs, who is also chairman of Australian Supercars and founder of investment firm Archer Capital, joined the board 37 days ago, having been elected at the Annual General Meeting on March 30 along with Virgin Blue founder Brett Godfrey and former Wallaby Dan Herbert.

Meanwhile, former Rugby Australia chief operating officer Rob Clarke has been appointed interim chief executive, after Raelene Castle resigned last month at the instigation of the governing body’s board after nearly two-and-a-half years in the position.

Clarke, who resigned from his previous Rugby Australia position in 2017, will take on his new role for the next three-to-six months according to the Australian Associated Press.

Castle’s departure was seen as a chance for all parties to clear the air and followed a vote-of-no-confidence letter to Castle and the board from 11 former national team captains, led by Rugby World Cup winning captain Nick Farr-Jones.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on rugby union in Australia, with players having to agree to pay cuts in order for operations to continue. The AAP reports that Wiggs was instrumental in this development during his short stint at the national governing body.

In March, Rugby Australia reported a provisional A$9.4m (€5.2m/$5.8m) operating loss for 2019. It also suspended talks over its next broadcast rights deal in March, after Castle conceded that the governing body may need to approach the government for financial assistance during the crisis.

Speaking to rugby.com.au, Clarke said today: “I don’t underestimate the challenges, there were some very tough decisions we made in 2017 due to the financial horizon facing the game and at face value that’s only became more challenging since then.

“So, the financial outlook will very much dictate what can be done and what should be done. It’s a priority of mine to understand that and then work with it.”

Recent off-the-field problems have also hurt the union’s reputation. The Australian men’s 15-a-side national team, the Wallabies, have performed poorly and Rugby Australia has been burdened by a damaging dispute with former player Israel Folau over homophobic social media posts. Folau took Rugby Australia to court in an unfair dismissal claim and is reported to have secured A$8m (€4.7m/$5.1m) in a settlement.