"Time to Reset" - Rugby Australia Push For Control of Super Rugby Clubs - Ruck

“Time to Reset” – Rugby Australia Push For Control of Super Rugby Clubs

Rugby Australia have reportedly expressed the need for a ‘strategic reset’, in how the Australian Super Rugby clubs and the Wallabies work together. Following a recent stretch of poor performances in the new Eddie Jones era, the governing body has pushed for change in how the Wallabies and domestic clubs operate.

Following recent reports coming out of Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald suggests that Rugby Australia could be set to take control of the nation’s Super Rugby clubs. This would see the governing body oversee the contracts of the registered players and coaches, in a ‘centralised system’ that is reportedly gaining favour with the state unions.

Eddie Jones, Coach of Barbarians during the The Killik Cup Match between Barbarians and World XV at Twickenham Stadium on 28 May 2023. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

The move to a centralised system, would be similar in style to that of New Zealand or Ireland. The five Super Rugby clubs across New Zealand work in direct collaboration with the All Blacks, with Head Coach Ian Forster having a say on who plays week in, week out for the domestic club sides. Similarly, the four provincial teams on the island of Ireland work centrally to benefit the national team, witch Andy Farrell’s side recently seeing the rewards with the 2023 Six Nations Grand Slam.

Australian rugby is in a surprising state of disorganised disarray. After Eddie Jones was sacked as England Head Coach, the Wallabies were excited at Jones’ return to the helm of the side. However, a winless 2023 Rugby Championship set things off on the back foot, with Jones first match back in charge seeing his side lose 43-12 to what he described as a ‘half baked’ South African side.

Defeat to Argentina and the All Blacks has clearly not impressed the higher-ups at Rugby Australia, who have also recently been dealing with the contractual and operational grievances of the Wallaroos Women’s side. The five Australian Super Rugby teams have historically objected to having Rugby Australia interfere in their business, however with added post-pandemic financial stresses, and performances dropping off, now is the agreed time for intervention.

“This has been talked about for a long time,” Rugby Australia boss Phil Waugh said to The Sydney Morning Herald.

“We have had a whole lot of independent reviews. Every review has in some shape or form recommended this structure. In terms of timing, we are going into this World Cup seventh or eighth in the world, we haven’t had a team in the Super Rugby final, since 2014 and there has been an overall decline in performance. So, the time is right.”

“At the outset, it won’t be all players but depending on how things evolve on the contracting system, it may evolve in some clubs to be all players, and other clubs not,” Waugh said.

Australia are set to host the 2025 British and Irish Lions Tour, and 2027 (Men’s) and 2029 (Women’s) Rugby World Cups. Rugby Australia and some of the nation’s Super Rugby sides are expected to meet next year, to begin this new era ‘down under’. Waugh believes that the Super Rugby clubs will expectedly have different levels of engagement, due to private ownership (Western Force), and the Queensland Reds reportedly said to be wanting more roster control than discussed.