Sun. Dec 5th, 2021

Hamish McLennan and Phil Kearns were not always Rugby Australia’s first choice.

It turns out that the duo in the roundabout, in controversial ways, promise to become the savior of Australian rugby.

In the biggest coup in Australian rugby since the then Australian Rugby Union stepped in to win the World Cup rights in 2003, the duo have played crucial roles in Rugby Australia, which secured the World Cup in 2027.

Nor will it take the credit for, instead of raising praise to their colleagues and board colleagues and describing the performance as a “team effort”.

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan and CEO, Rugby World Cup 2027 bid, Phil Kearns with Wallabies in 2020. Photo: Rugby Australia
Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan and CEO, Rugby World Cup 2027 bid, Phil Kearns with Wallabies in 2020. Photo: Rugby AustraliaSource: Delivered

For a money-rich organization, the money, as sources say, will be significantly more than the $ 40 million that ARU pulled in from the 2003 tournament, give the game Down Under a second chance and put rugby on the map in Australia again.

When the clock struck midnight Thursday in Australia, Rugby Australia officials had just heard the news.

Some slept, others awoke shortly after weeping eyes after returning home from important, “game-changing” meetings in the United Kingdom during the previous fourteen days.

It did not take long before they all came to life, removed their eye masks and wiped the sleep away from their eyes until they could believe the result.

The news, delivered by World Rugby official and former Wallaby and Rugby Australia board member Brett Robinson, threatens to change the landscape of rugby in Australia and the terrible rhetoric associated with it.

As McLennan told in the middle of the night in London, a few hours after the news, “We needed a longer runway to fix the game, we can now over the next five or six years.”

Hamish McLennan speaks during the board lunch at Australia House on 16 November 2021 in London. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

It forms a “golden decade” for Australian rugby, as CEO Andy Marinos put it, with Eddie Jones’ England touring in July next year, before the 2023 World Cup in France, a British and Irish Lions series in 2025 and a home world cup. two years later.

It was not fait acpli that McLennan should be president when Cameron Clyne announced he was stepping down last year.

Although it was widely reported that Peter Wiggs had the role before a series of extraordinary events saw him sidelined shortly after he came on board Rugby Australia’s board, the former Supercars boss was never ratified as chairman.

He held out his hand, but only after being denied his package deal, Wiggs resigned.

Even before the failure of the board, McLennan was to join RA when other business was first taken care of, but he was never promised the chairmanship.

However, Wiggs’ decision to resign opened the door for McLennan to join the board in mid-May, and shortly afterwards he was elected chairman.

It is a decision that has paid off.

Bidding Advisory Chairman Rod Eddington, World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin, World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont, Rugby Australia Chairman Hamish McLennan, World Rugby Vice President Bernard Laporte and Australian World Rugby Council member Brett Robinson in London.Source: Getty Images

Kearns, meanwhile, missed out on the role he loved.

The two-time World Cup winner believed he could help get Australian rugby back on track.

Instead, the Rugby Australia board chose Raelene Castle to replace Bill Powder in December 2017.

Bitter? Not so according to those closest to him.

“Disappointed yes, bitterly no,” says rugby broadcaster and journalist Nick McArdle.

“He really believed he could make a difference and had a vision for what the game could become again.”

Kearns seized the chance to join McLennan and Rugby Australia in mid-2020 when the new president was tasked with securing the 2027 World Cup rights.

Very quickly, he won over his new RA colleagues, who did not know what to think of him when the former whore stepped in the door.

McLennan and Kearns could have been new to the block, but the duo had known each other for years and wanted to see Australia back to the top in rugby.

Earlier this month, the couple, Marinos, director Anthony French, former Wallabies captain John Eales and businessman Sir Rod Eddington, flew to the UK to hold meetings with the most prominent rugby officials in the world in an attempt to convince rugby leaders of why Australia should host the 2027 World Cup.

Wallaby Gary Ella, RA CEO Andy Marinos, RA Chairman Hamish McLennan, Phil Kearns, John Eales, Olivia Wirth and Bid Chairman Sir Rod Eddington pose alongside young entrants during Australia’s World Cup 2027 bid launch. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Three meetings with officials from the home leagues and World Rugby helped secure Australia as the “preferred candidate”.

Over wine in London, the RA’s advisory panel and top management managed to convince World Rugby that Australia was the “safe pair” of hands needed.

“Wine bottles help with everything,” Kearns says as he sits comfortably from a chair in the RA foyer despite his lack of sleep.

“We had a couple of dinners with people from World Rugby, people from RFU, from Scottish Rugby, the Welsh Rugby guys got a dinner so we did all that and all that helps build trust in each other and they asked questions around our offers, around our grounds, around the plans for the World Cup and the more they talk to you, the more comfortable they become.

“In a more relaxed environment, it helped us set the scene and helped them understand the scene.”

Marinos, who took over as RA CEO earlier this year and had seen Australian rugby matches on his own as the SANZAAR boss in recent years, believed that the meeting with World Rugby boss Alan Gilpin on Wednesday 17 November was the moment who closed the deal. .

It allowed for a more enjoyable journey home to Australia earlier in the week, knowing they had done everything to keep Rugby Australia ahead of the political game.

Fifteen months after Kearns accepted the role of RA’s director of the World Cup bid, “the light on the hill”, as McLennan puts it, made a text message at. 12:15 Thursday worth it all.

“It’s incredibly satisfying,” Kearns says.

“Everything I do in rugby is in favor of Australian rugby, not for me, it is in favor of Australian rugby.

“I’m really sure where we are now in our new chairman and our new CEO, who are fantastic people, most importantly, but good rugby people and their heart is in the best interest of the game.

“I now have to meet a bunch of the team and work very closely with the team in Australian rugby and they are good people and definitely at the heart of the decision making and what will be of great benefit to rugby here in this country is the grassroots. “


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