NSW Rugby absent from provincial Unions' support of RA, Paul McLean

Rugby Australia and its chairman Paul McLean have received a timely vote of confidence amid the code's disastrous current predicament with the nation's provincial Unions united in their support of the under-fire administration.

United in their support apart from the NSW Rugby Union, it seems.

Wednesday proved to be among the most turbulent days in Australian rugby history - and easily the match of Raelene Castle's departure a fortnight ago - as new director Peter Wiggs walked away from the game after just 37 days having fallen out with several of his fellow board members.

But the drama didn't stop there as RA later unveiled Rob Clarke as Castle's replacement on an interim basis, the code's former chief operating officer returning to Moore Park to help navigate the current crisis.

Interim chairman McLean revealed the news on Wednesday evening, the former Wallabies back at last delivering some semblance of stability after weeks of uncertainty.

And McLean clearly has the wider support of Australian rugby as the code comes to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic and tries to stave off complete ruin.

The ACT & Southern New South Wales Rugby Union, Queensland Rugby Union, Rugby Victoria, RugbyWA, Rugby Union SA and Tas Rugby have all united behind McLean.

The NSW Rugby Union, however, was conspicuous by its absence.

"As the chairs of Australian rugby's provincial representative bodies and as constitutional members of Rugby Australia (RA), we are fully supportive of the RA board's ongoing work around reform and renewal, which has been underway for a number of months," a media release read.

"While the COVID-19 pandemic has created its own set of extra challenges during this process, RA chairman Paul McLean has our complete support to continue this process of transition.

"Australian rugby's provincial representatives do not support individuals or groups designating appointments. We are supportive of the process of re-structure with appropriate consultation.

"We feel it is vitally important for all rugby's stakeholders to maintain a calm focus, and to give Paul the support and time he and the board require, as we collectively navigate through this transitional period.

"In times where Australian rugby has been strong, it has succeeded by jointly understanding the needs of its members and has created and delivered strategies on and off the field to sustain and grow the code.

"This common philosophy and approach is required now, more than ever, given the challenges facing the code and all Australians, during this global health crisis.

"We place our trust in Paul and his RA board to continue to consult with his members in the knowledge that there are highly skilled individuals on the RA board, who each possess the experience and acumen that will allow Australian rugby to move forward as we all plan for a gradual return to community and elite rugby in Australia in the weeks and months to come."

The support of the six provincial Unions is a timely vote of confidence for RA and McLean after the board resisted a push from Wiggs to install Matt Carroll as chief executive earlier in the week. Other board members were reportedly unhappy at Wiggs' plan to bring Carroll back into the fold instead of conducting a public search for Castle's replacement, so too the duo's friendship.

Wiggs tendered his resignation as a result, paving the way for Clarke's return, a move that has been ratified by the RA board.

Just how the NSW Rugby Union fits into these latest developments is unknown, though it appears there is a struggle for power playing out inside the virtual boardrooms of RA.

The provincial Unions' collective discourse about them not supporting "individuals or groups designating appointments" and being "supportive of the process of re-structure with appropriate consultation," is particularly telling given this week's turn of events.

ESPN has reached out to NSW Rugby Union for comment.