‘That is just crap’: Former All Blacks blast Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan after Super Rugby threat

Sir John Kirwan, Mils Muliaina and Jeff Wilson have put the boot into Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan for the timing and the nature of his threat to walk away from Super Rugby Pacific.

In a move widely seen as a tactic to extract more money from New Zealand Rugby, McLennan said last week that “all bets were off” after the two-year-contract for Super Rugby Pacific ends next year.

That provoked an angry response from the trio of former All Blacks on The Breakdown on Sunday, who saw it as a cynical and unnecessary bargaining tactic that would put stress on Super Rugby Pacific newcomers Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua.

“I think it’s all talk,” Muliaina said. “I’m disappointed too.

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“Purely for that fact that we spoke about Moana and the Drua….they finally get into a competition and Hamish comes out and says we’re going to leave them.

“He’s the only one who thinks it’s going to happen. Even the Australian players [don’t], We need each other.

“This competition has been so great and to hear stuff like that come out in the week of the final. That is just crap.”

Kirwan said leaving Super Rugby would be “the dumbest political decision they [Rugby Australia] could make”, and while he was strongly in favor of Australian sides in the competition, he challenged McLennan to get a better TV deal.

Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan has threatened to walk away from Super Rugby Pacific.

Tom Dulat/Getty Images

Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan has threatened to walk away from Super Rugby Pacific.

“Is this about money? The way I read it he wants a bit of our money, Sky money that we pay the New Zealand Rugby Union,” Kirwan said.

“But I’m going, ‘Hey, don’t you have to go and do your own television deal’?”

Rugby Australia’s television deal with Nine/Stan is worth considerably less than NZ Rugby’s deal with Sky, raising concerns that the Australians can’t afford to sustain five Super Rugby clubs, which cost at least $10ma year to operate.

Wilson said that New Zealand and Australia “needed each other” to build Super Rugby Pacific into a strong competition, but could not hide his frustration at McLennan’s comments.

“I think this is just a pure power play, in terms of trying to negotiate more funds for Australian rugby,” Wilson said.

“I’m bitterly disappointed to hear him talking like that,” Wilson said.

“When you commit to something for a couple of years, you commit to the Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua sides…how do you think they feel right now Hamish?

“In regards to the fact you’ve opened a door for them, and you’re thinking about, ‘We’re going to walk away from them now because it’s in the best interests of us, or we think it is?’

“I’ll give you an example. Australian netball is in the hole for $4m. They walked away from the trans-Tasman competition with New Zealand, and they have been worse off financially.

“There’s a danger if you walk away. To be fair though, we also need them, and I do get where they are coming from…we’ve created something, they’ve committed to it, and now they’re talking about walking away?

“I’m really disappointed in this because this tells me about our relationship.”

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