Bill Pulver’s job on the line at ARU EGM

By , Darren Walton is a Roar Guru

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    The future of ARU boss Bill Pulver, moreso than that of the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels, is likely to come to a head at Tuesday’s emergency general meeting in Sydney.

    The Rugby Union Players’ Association and Victorian Rugby Union called for the EGM last month after being left frustrated by the ARU’s ongoing delay in naming which Australian franchise would be cut as part of SANZAAR’s plans to reduce Super Rugby to a 15-team competition in 2018.

    Concerned about the mental welfare of those players affected by the uncertainty, members are seeking clarity and transparency from Pulver and the ARU board around the decision-making process.

    Tuesday will be 71 days since ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said players, stakeholders and fans would know “within 72 hours” whether it was the Force or Rebels culled, along with two of South Africa’s six franchises.

    But while the South African rugby union has called a special meeting for July 7 to propose which two of its teams will be dropped – almost certainly the Cheetahs and Kings – the ARU admits it still has “no definitive timeline” on when it will decide the fate of the Force and Rebels.

    Australia’s governing body is in legal stoushes with both franchises and has an arbitration hearing with the Force set for July 31, after beginning mediation with the Rebels later this month over their damages claim.

    The messy, seemingly endless, saga has placed Pulver under extreme pressure to keep his job.

    Two of Australia’s most successful ever coaches, 1991 World Cup-winning mentor Bob Dwyer and 1984 grand slam engineer Alan Jones, have both this year called for the chief executive to step down.

    Pulver is contracted until February next year, but promised in April when it was first announced that an Australian franchise would be cut that he would resign “in a heartbeat” if that was for the greater good of the game.

    The 57-year-old is sticking to his word.

    “If everyone in the room stood up on Tuesday and said, ‘Bill, we think it’s time for change now’, I will step down immediately,” Pulver told Fairfax Media.

    “It’s not an issue of anyone having to push me out.”

    Despite much angst in the rugby community, Pulver – who replaced John O’Neill in 2013 – maintains he has the majority backing to remove an Australian franchise, which he and Clyne estimates will save the governing body $6 million annually.

    “The feedback I have from virtually every state is they agree that we need to go from five to four,” Pulver said.

    “Most people who understand the game appreciate that we need to go from five to four.”

    But he understands the frustration and anguish of those potentially affected.

    “I am in multiple discussions at the moment, which I am not at liberty to discuss,” Pulver said.

    “I am in the process of reducing five teams to four teams in Super Rugby and if my team were threatened, I’d be reacting the same way. I understand that.

    “It’s just a difficult issue we have to get through. We’ve got to establish a willingness to confront the issues that are affecting this game.”

    © AAP 2017