Rugby Australia director Peter Wiggs resigns

Rugby Australia [RA] has appointed former chief operating office Rob Clarke as its interim chief executive, chairman Paul McLean confirmed on Wednesday evening.

Clarke was unveiled at the tail end of yet another incredible day for Australian rugby, after director Peter Wiggs had resigned from his position earlier in the day.

Wiggs had wanted to make a "captain's call" by installing close friend and former Australian Rugby Union [ARU] general manager Matt Carroll as chief executive, the duo seemingly poised to form a close working relationship with Wiggs taking over as RA chairman.

But Wiggs instead tendered his resignation by late morning, leaving RA to appoint Clarke, who previously filled the position as chief operating officer across two separate stints in each of the last two decades, as its interim chief executive.

"I was sounded out by the chairman on my interest and availability to lead the organisation in a short-term capacity and I have accepted the role on that basis," Clarke said. "From my perspective, the opportunity and the timing were right, especially while things are on hold with some of my other pursuits during this current pandemic.

"I have worked with Paul McLean and other directors previously at Rugby Australia, as well as a number of the senior management staff and will be able to commence the role immediately and hit the ground running, which is what is needed at this time.

"The game is facing some unprecedented challenges and like all rugby supporters and people working within the game, I want to see Australian rugby get through this and emerge on the other side with greater certainty and a positive outlook.

"That is a challenge that I am very willing to take on and that's what the focus will be over the next few months while the board conducts its search for a permanent CEO. I will not be entering the process for the permanent role."

Wiggs had risen quickly inside the RA ranks and was tipped to take over as the board's chairman once McLean stepped aside. He was seen as a key player in helping finalise the pay deal that saw Australia's players agree of cuts of up to 60 percent after two weeks of tense negotiations.

But on Wednesday morning, RA confirmed Wiggs had walked away from his position altogether, reportedly over other board members' resistance to his desire to install current Australian Olympic Committee [AOC] chief executive Matt Carroll as RA's new CEO.

"Peter has decided to step down from the Board and I understand his reasons," McLean said via an RA media release. "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.

"The immediate priority of the board is to install a replacement for Peter, and an interim chief executive. I will provide an update on those matters at the appropriate time."

Wiggs, who only joined the board in March alongside former Wallabies centre Daniel Herbert and former Virgin CEO Brett Godfrey, had agreed to succeed McLean as RA chairman but only if Carroll was installed as chief executive.

Carroll had in 2003 served as the ARU's acting chief executive and was also general manager of the 2003 Rugby World Cup, which was hosted by Australia. He also served as general manager of the ARU between 1995 and 2000 and was chief executive of NSW Waratahs in 2001.

Current AOC president John Coates had given Carroll his blessing to jump ship to RA, describing his colleague as the exact kind of person Australian rugby needed in its current crisis. But, according to The Australian, other RA board members were reportedly concerned by the "closeness" of Wiggs and Carroll and they instead wanted "due process" to be followed in the hunt for Raelene Castle's replacement as RA chief executive.

This latest chaos at Moore Park comes less than two weeks after Castle stepped down from as RA chief executive after she was told she no longer had the support of the board.

RA is in deep financial trouble amid the coronavirus pandemic and is still to secure a broadcast deal beyond 2020.