Phil Kearns denies play to replace scrutinised Kiwi Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle

Rugby Australia’s (RA) Kiwi boss Raelene Castle could reportedly be replaced by Phil Kearns, although the Wallabies great has dismissed it as “paper talk”.

The game across the ditch is in turmoil because of the coronavirus crisis and the subsequent cost cutting and slashed salaries of RA staff, while there was an ugly dispute over whether the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) was allowed access to all of RA’s financial information after repeated requests. 

The RUPA on Saturday confirmed they had been granted access but there remains intense scrutiny on Castle’s position after widespread criticism of her tenure.

Phil Kearns has denied he is making a play for Rugby Australia's top job.


Phil Kearns has denied he is making a play for Rugby Australia’s top job.

Former Wallabies hooker Kearns, who lost to Castle when she was appointed Bill Pulver’s replacement by unanimous vote two years ago, is set to take her place, according to the Daily Telegraph. 

* Wallabies star irked by pay war
* RA chairman backs Castle
* Are Castle’s days numbered?
* English sympathy for Aussie rugby
* Cheika questions RA’s leadership

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Kearns has long been an outspoken commentator for Fox Sports. However, the broadcaster is reporting his denial of a play to replace Castle.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Castle retained the full support of the RA board at the end of the most difficult and tumultuous week in the game’s history, in which 75 per cent of the game’s non-player workforce were stood down, a pay cut stand-off turned ugly with the country’s 192 professional players and a small but powerful group of former players began agitating for change at the top.

Reports emerged on Friday that personnel changes on the RA board could see Castle sacked over the weekend, but interim chairman Paul McLean said, despite daily board meetings link-ups week, there was no plot to topple the game’s under-fire chief executive.

The Daily Telegraph report that Kearns has the backing to take on the job when available to do so next year, when it’s hoped sport can resume again after its ongoing suspension because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Castle’s tenure has been fraught with issues, including the fallout from the Israel Folau saga, a public spat with former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika while the team performed poorly at last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, and a concerning failure to nail down a new broadcast deal while interest declines in Super Rugby and the Wallabies.

Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle is under scrutiny after a terrible week for the game across the ditch.


Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle is under scrutiny after a terrible week for the game across the ditch.

Also, Castle took a 50 per cent pay cut earlier this week – understood to be worth more than A$400,000 – in the wake of RA’s A$9.4 million deficit for 2019 announced at its AGM on Monday.

RA has been under fire since the AGM after announcing a 72 per cent self-performance rating for 2019 and many former Wallabies have been lining up to criticise Castle. 

The coronavirus crisis leaves Australian rugby also facing a financial black hole of more than $90m as sport around the world remains indefinitely on hold because of the pandemic.