Former Wallabies captain Phil Waugh appointed Rugby Australia CEO

Former Wallabies captain Phil Waugh has been confirmed as the next chief executive of Rugby Australia, one month on from Andy Marinos’s shock resignation.

The RA board unanimously endorsed the 43-year-old’s appointment which comes three months out from the Rugby World Cup in France, which starts on 8 September.

Waugh said his appointment was “an absolute honour and privilege”.

“There is definitely a buzz around the game regarding our upcoming golden decade, and I intend to work with the team at RA and our many stakeholders to maximise this period and secure financial sustainability,” he said.

Waugh is the first Wallaby to take on the CEO position; he played 79 Test matches for the national side between 2000 and 2009, including in two Rugby World Cups, and became the Wallabies’ 74th Test captain in 2006.

He also played more than 130 Super Rugby games for the New South Wales Waratahs.

Since retiring from playing in 2011, Waugh has gained executive and governance experience most recently at National Australia Bank, and has been on the RA board since July 2018.

In his non-executive director role on the board Waugh was involved in informing former Wallabies coach Dave Rennie of his sacking earlier this year – a task Waugh undertook alongside RA chair, Hamish McLennan, while Marinos was in South Africa.

Given his experience in the organisation, Waugh is expected to hit the ground running in step with McLennan and Wallabies coach Eddie Jones as they work towards the September World Cup with growing optimism.

McLennan said Waugh had proven himself on and off the field as “a true believer in the potential of where the global game of rugby can take you”.

“Phil has exacting standards which will deliver us improved pathways and success as we prepare for the golden decade of rugby ahead for our men, women, boys and girls,” McLennan said. “We are on a mission and Phil will make sure we get there.”

Waugh said RA’s top priority was developing the game from the grassroots to elite competition, in Australia and in the Pacific.

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“We need to align our professional pathways, and work as one team from club to country, with the goal of being the best and most successful men’s and women’s rugby systems in the world,” he said.

Marinos tendered his resignation from the role in early May, just four months out from the World Cup. Marinos’s last day will be 14 June, after he stayed in the role while RA looked for his replacement. Waugh will commence his new role on 6 July.

A breakdown in communication between Marinos and McLennan reportedly led to Marinos’s decision to step down after less than two-and-a-half years in the role.

Waugh will step into the top job with RA’s finances back in black, after the organisation announced had turned around a $27.1m deficit after the Covid pandemic left it on the brink of “catastrophe”. April’s AGM confirmed a $8.2m profit was made for 2022.

RA launched a recruitment process when Marinos announced his departure in May but it is unclear how many people were interviewed for the role.

Waugh was considered the frontrunner for the job, and World Cup winner Phil Kearns, who spearheaded Australia’s successful bid to host the 2027 World Cup, was also initially linked to the post, as were former lock Justin Harrison and former NRL boss Todd Greenberg.