The Super Rugby Cull Goes From Saga to Scandal to Sham

Well readers, Andrew Forrest’s explosive revelation this morning that the ARU knew on February 24 that the Force faced the Super Rugby axe, based on its own legal advice, has explained a couple of things.

It explains why Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper was able to publicly reveal the ARU’s plans to cut the Force way back on March 27. It explains why the Rebels players and staff were privately assured they were safe from the Super Rugby cull, even though ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said on April 9 that the ARU was still deciding whether it was the Force or the Rebels who would go.

It explains why ARU henchmen Rob Clarke and Todd Day (who have both since departed) flew to Perth two days later to read the startled RugbyWA officials their last rites rather than provide any sort of objective assessment between the Force and the Rebels.

Those things all happened because the die was already cast.

Your columnist sensed as much at the time. Indeed, the very first column filed in this series back on April 11, headed: Exposing The ARU Sham, included the following quote: “While chairman Cameron Clyne and CEO Bill Pulver have maintained their poker faces throughout, every shred of evidence suggests the ARU had already lined up the Force for the chop and tried to mitigate the fall-out with a once-over-lightly review.”

So having gone from saga to scandal to charade, what happens now?

Yesterday’s column headed: Eminem: The Palms Are Sweaty In The ARU Boardroom, provides some context to Andrew Forrest’s comments this morning.

In that column, we explained how the cracks were starting to appear around the ARU board table as chairman Clyne made it known he wasn’t prepared to be the fall guy for the Super Rugby debacle. And your columnist senses it was no coincidence that Twiggy did not demand the resignations of the whole ARU Board for the charade he exposed this morning, just the scalp of chairman Clyne. In fact, Twiggy even gave CEO Bill Pulver a rap as a frank and honest servant of the ARU board.

While Clyne has been stoic in backing the ARU’s decision to axe the Force – even in the face of Twiggy’s $50 million personal pledge to support the code nationally – the other seven current and remaining ARU directors might be starting to weigh up the broader implications of that decision, including reputational damage.

Remember, influential talkback radio host Alan Jones – who will be on the speaking circuit in Perth on Friday week ahead of the Springboks-Wallabies Test at nib Stadium – has already threatened to expose the ARU directors he believes are white-anting chairman Clyne.

The clock is ticking before Justice Hammerschlag hands down his critical appeal decision in the NSW Supreme Court. And the palms are now getting a lot sweatier around the ARU board table.

Stay tuned…