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'Always knew it would get really ugly': RA chief's strange admission as World Cup budget blow out revealed

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8th November, 2023
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Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan says Eddie Jones’s calamitous World Cup campaign ran over budget but he wanted to give the walk away coach every chance of success in France.

McLennan told Stan Sport that the campaign – after he promised Jones anything he wanted – cost more than RA wanted.

“Yeah it was a little bit,” McLennan said when asked if the campaign was over budget. He was asked if the blowout ran into millions.

“We don’t disclose that but yeah, it did extend the budget… more than we would like.

“Look, he had a budget that he agreed to and I think that was a little bit of a throwaway line at the time.

“What we were trying to do is to ensure that he had every resource so that the coaches couldn’t come back and say we didn’t succeed because we weren’t given the resources that we need. It was nothing more than that.”

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The budget will be examined as part of the review into the World Cup campaign by ex-Wallabies Justin Harrison and Andrew Slack and consultant Darlene Harrison.

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McLennan admitted he had not spoken to Jones about reports linking him to Japan.

“I know what the answer would be. He’s actually claimed that there was absolutely nothing to it. He’s got nothing to go to. But certainly, yeah, the Herald believe there’s absolute truth in that (Zoom interview),”said McLennan.

“So I think in the fullness of time we’ll find out what’s happened.”

McLennan, who said the decision to select Jones was not his alone but a board decision, denied he had become estranged from Jones near the end of the coach’s tenure.

“He’s an intense character…. but there was no issue and actually I’ve been very publicly supportive of him. So I think I had a fair handle on what he’s like to work with,”said McLennan.

“And so I actually didn’t want to overly meddle.”

McLennan again said he wanted to stay and help fix Australian rugby.

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“I always knew that there would be a moment like this where it would get really ugly and all I’d say to all of the rugby fans and the stakeholders – certainly, again, I apologise for what happened through the World Cup.

“But hopefully you see somebody with a steely resolve… and I really believe the plan and what we’ve got coming up with the (home) World Cups will be transformative.

“I copped a bit of stick for sticking around in Paris, which I think was unfair and uncalled for. We as Australian rugby got a whole lot of stuff through (in World Rugby meetings) that will really benefit the game in the future.”

He also said the number of Shore School old boys in the halls of power at RA over recent years was “bizarrely coincidental.”

“I was asked to come in in 2020 – I don’t think my school had anything to do with it. I take a little bit of offence to the way [Phil Waugh] is portrayed in the media about that because he’s a 79 cap Wallaby.

“He’s built a very successful career outside of rugby and he was very hands on right through the very dark days of rugby over the last three years. So the board universally felt that he was the best candidate. So it’s coincidental more than anything.

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“I don’t know what to say about that…

“I know it looks odd when you ask those questions but I can’t do anything about what’s happened in the past and a lot of good players did come out of that school – not me included.”

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