McLennan ousted as Rugby Australia chair after board coup

Can Hamish McLennan survive 2023 disaster? (3:46)

The ESPN Scrum Reset crew discuss Hamish McLennan's future as RA chairman and if there needs to be more change after the Wallabies' World Cup. (3:46)

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan has been ousted following an extraordinary board meeting on Sunday night.

On Sunday, McLennan vowed to fight to hold onto his position despite six member unions, including Queensland, the ACT and RugbyWA, demanding his resignation.

But McLennan's bid to keep his job ended on Sunday night after an emergency board meeting. World Cup-winning Wallaby Daniel Herbert has been named as McLennan's replacement on an interim basis, RA confirmed.

McLennan opted to quit the board entirely rather than remain as a director. His exit marks the end of an ugly chapter in Australian rugby.

"It has never been more important for the Rugby Australia board, working with Member Unions, to come together and execute the reform we absolutely need for an aligned high-performance system and to deliver on the commitments we have made, including to invest in Community and Women's Rugby," Herbert said.

"Australia will host the British and Irish Lions Tour in 2025, the Men's 2027 Rugby World Cup and the Women's 2029 Rugby World Cup and the 2032 Olympic Games - the reform we progress now will underpin the competitiveness of our national teams, as well as building deeper engagement with the Rugby community and fans everywhere.

"We note that the different Member Unions are not opposing Rugby Australia's centralisation proposals and remain committed to supporting high performance alignment."

On Friday, the six rebel union members took the extraordinary step of sending a letter to the RA board declaring they had lost faith in McLennan following a shambolic year for the code.

The disastrous 2023 campaign culminated in the Wallabies' worst World Cup performance -- failing to progress from the group stage -- and coach Eddie Jones walking away 10 months into his five year deal.

The doomed appointment of Jones following the sacking of Dave Rennie in January was seen as a "captain's pick", although McLennan claimed the move was supported by the board.

"We do not believe Mr McLennan has been acting in the best interests of our game," the letter from the state unions read.

"We no longer have any trust or faith in his leadership, or the direction in which he is taking rugby in Australia."

Initially resisting the call for change, McLennan claimed the states were putting "parochialism and self-interest" ahead of the game.

He said he believed the rebel state unions' move was directly linked to Queensland and the ACT's opposition to RA's procurement of the commercial arm of their Super franchises as part of the high-performance alignment plans which are underway.

McLennan received the public backing of billionaires Andrew and Nicola Forrest, who own the Western Force and therefore constitute one voting member of the Australian Rugby Union.

"Hamish is steering rugby through a very difficult period from the complete mess that he inherited," Andrew and Nicola Forrest told The Australian in a statement.

"Now is not the time for more disruption in the sport, but a time for rugby to band together and back the proposed centralisation reforms."

McLennan was appointed RA chairman of in mid-2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic with the code in dire financial straits.

Since then RA has secured hosting rights for the next men's World Cup in 2027 and the women's tournament in 2029.

"The board acknowledges the strategic agenda that Hamish has been instrumental in driving, through COVID and other challenges, ensuring that Rugby in Australia continued through very challenging times," the RA statement confirming McLennan's departure said.

"He departs the role of Chair having been a central figure in Australia securing the hosting rights to major rugby events that will inspire generations of players and supporters, as well as delivering the current broadcast rights deal and helping to turn around the governing body's financial position."