Rugby Australia (RA), the national governing body for rugby union, is set to take control over key decisions for the country’s five Super Rugby clubs as part of a major restructure to improve national team performance and unify the sport.

RA currently has no control over its Super Rugby clubs – New South Wales Waratahs, Queensland Reds, Canberra Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels, and Western Force – who play against teams from Fiji, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands in that competition.

The country’s current decentralized model has seen rival states compete for talent, coaches, and resources, which has affected the performance of its Super Rugby teams as well as the men’s national team (the Wallabies), who have fallen to eighth in the world rankings. Meanwhile, no Australian team has won a Super Rugby championship since 2014.

The “strategic reset” will mirror the centralized models of New Zealand and Ireland, where provincial member unions answer to the national federation for high-performance decisions that might affect test rugby.

The Australian Super Rugby clubs, along with member unions and the Rugby Union Players’ Association, have agreed to the restructure which gives RA oversight of the National High-Performance Plan and system, which includes national pathways and development programs, national teams across 15s and Sevens, and contracting players and key staff within the Super Rugby Pacific, women’s Super W, and national programs.

Super Rugby clubs, meanwhile, will continue to be responsible for local talent development and pathways, as well as the delivery of Super Rugby Pacific and Super W, aligned with the RA’s national high-performance plan.

Announcing the move earlier today (August 23), RA chief executive Phil Waugh said: “We firmly believe that strategic structural change is required if we are to deliver success for the game in the future – particularly with the pipeline of major rugby events happening in our backyard through to 2032.

“This is a significant project and needs to be done through a spirit of partnership across Australian rugby, motivated by the collective desire to ensure we are winning on the field and ensuring that we are sustainable and able to grow off it.

"The implementation of this model cannot be a one-size-fits-all model and needs to reflect the specifics of each Super Rugby club, member union, and their markets. It will take time to successfully deliver this project, however, we intend to formally commence work on rolling it out over the coming weeks, with a plan to methodically work through the process with our many stakeholders.

“With the many exciting events on the horizon for Australian rugby, it is important that we take this opportunity to really set up our system, and our clubs to be more successful, and drive the game forward at all levels.”

The move comes as Australia prepares to host several major rugby events in the next few years, which RA hopes will supercharge the country’s interest in the game. The country is due to host the 2025 Lions Tour, the men’s 2027 Rugby World Cup, and the women’s 2029 World Cup.

Waugh added that the new model, to be rolled out over the coming months, will allow member unions to focus on community rugby in their states and have less “distraction” from Super Rugby.

The governing body said it is currently looking to recruit a director of rugby to run the new high-performance program after Scott Johnson stepped down from the role in 2021.

The announcement comes days after players from the women's Wallaroos national team launched a social media campaign against RA over inequalities in investment between the men’s and women’s teams.

The campaign was triggered after RA reshared a social media post of men’s players’ wives and girlfriends being flown to Sydney by the RA to spend time and farewell the men’s team ahead of the squad’s business-class flight to France for the upcoming Rugby World Cup, which starts on September 9.

In response, at least 10 Wallaroos players posted a statement highlighting the alleged inequalities and claiming they were lied to by RA about funds available.

At a press conference earlier today, Waugh said he would meet Wallaroos players this week to “listen and understand” their grievances. He added that RA is targeting full-time professional contracts for the country’s top women by 2029.

In February, RA announced it would start contracting Wallaroos players on a part-time basis but planned to offer professional contracts by 2025.