Australia to follow New Zealand, Ireland with centralised model

rugby23 August 2023 08:06| © Reuters
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Phil Waugh © Gallo Images

Rugby Australia (RA) will take greater control of the sport's high performance programme in a bid to strengthen the national teams after reaching an agreement with provincial member unions on structural reforms.

The "strategic reset" will push Australia closer to the centralised models of New Zealand and Ireland, where provinces answer to the national federation for high performance decisions that might affect test rugby.

"The best example is probably Ireland and New Zealand," RA boss Phil Waugh told reporters on Wednesday of Australia's new set-up.

"They've been strong for a long period of time and between World Cups through their provincial teams as well as their national team.

"I think there's enormous benefit we can get if we work closer together across our provincial clubs, for the benefit of the (women's) Wallaroos and Wallabies."

Australia's decentralised model has long seen rival states compete for talent, coaches and resources but it has produced diminishing returns for the Wallabies and the country's five professional teams in Super Rugby.

The twice World Cup-winning Wallabies have slipped to eighth in the world rankings, while no Australian team has won a Super Rugby championship since the New South Wales Waratahs in 2014.

Waugh said the new model, to be rolled out in coming months, would allow member unions to focus on community rugby in their states and have less "distraction" from Super Rugby.

He said RA was looking to recruit a director of rugby to run the high performance programme.

Scott Johnson, the last director of rugby at RA, departed the role at the end of 2021.

Australia will host the touring British and Irish Lions team in 2025, the World Cup in 2027 and the women's World Cup in 2029.

RA were criticised by national women's team players this week who complained on social media that they were not promoted equally with the Wallabies.

Waugh said he would meet Wallaroos players this week to "listen and understand" their grievances.

He said RA were targeting fulltime professional contracts for the country's top women by 2029.

"As a governing body we need to support the women's game better than what we have," he said.