MELBOURNE – Phil Kearns has been appointed executive director of Australia’s bid for the 2027 Rugby World Cup and the former Wallabies hooker has ruled himself out of the running for Rugby Australia’s vacant chief executive role.
Kearns played 67 tests for the Wallabies and was a member of their 1991 and 1999 World Cup-winning teams.
He was among those demanding change at RA earlier this year and was a signatory to a letter from former Wallabies captains calling on the governing body’s leadership to resign.
On Wednesday, Kearns said his acceptance of the World Cup role was an endorsement of the new RA leadership, headed by chairman Hamish McLennan and interim CEO Rob Clarke.
“I think over the last three or four weeks in particular there’s been a really big shift in confidence in a lot of people that I talk to and I do think it’s heading in the right direction,” he told reporters.
“Hamish and Rob Clarke (interim CEO) are talking about the right things doing the right things.”
Kearns had previously been in the running to replace Bill Pulver as RA CEO but lost out to Raelene Castle, who resigned in April after losing the board’s confidence.
“I think this (role) will put paid to that aspiration,” Kearns said of the CEO position.
Kearns added that the World Cup could help the domestic game recover from its financial problems, having already been under pressure before Covid-19 hit.
“We will be coming out of a downturn of Covid-19 by then so this could be a really critical boost to our economy and to underpin our game,” he said.
Australia co-hosted the inaugural 1987 World Cup with New Zealand and had the sole rights in 2003.
France will host the next World Cup in 2023.
Russia announced last month it would bid for 2027 and had secured the backing of President Vladimir Putin.