New Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is at the centre of a mixed-messaging storm after a bombshell report he would consider walking away from his contract if Raelene Castle is ousted as Rugby Australia CEO.
On the same day it was revealed Australian players will seek get-out clauses, freeing them up to play in overseas competitions, in ongoing pay cut negotiations, Rennie's uncertain future was revealed in dramatically contrasting media reports.
The Sydney Morning Herald first reported Rennie would consider giving up his reported three-year contract with the Wallabies, such is his regard for Castle, who was part of the committee that handed him the Wallabies job last year.
However, The Australian reports Rennie is getting cold feet after seeing the financial turmoil that has gripped the game in Australia.
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Rugby Australia (RA) reportedly has cash reserves of just $11 million — enough to continue paying players for just three more months.
With no rugby to be played for the foreseeable future, the professional and community game faces an uncertain future as RA stares down the barrel of a financial loss of up to $120 million in 2020.
75 per cent of Rugby Australia staff have been stood down and Castle has headlined a series of executive pay cuts — taking a 50 per cent pay cut on her reported $800,000 per-year salary.
It is the financial plight of Rugby Australia that has really got Rennie second-guessing his decision to coach the Wallabies.
The report claims "the new financial constraints now gripping the game in this country were of far greater concern to" the former Chiefs coach.
Senior reporter Wayne Smith outlines Rennie's cold feet centre around the widespread reports he is facing a "savage" pay cut on the reported $1 million per season deal he signed through to the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Castle said in the report Rennie's coaching take over is still on schedule to begin on July 1 — in line with the original schedule of his transition from the Glasgow Warriors to the Wallabies' top job.
However, there are now suggestions Rennie may not even travel to Australia this winter — if international borders remain closed and all international rugby is unable to be played.
Rennie has previously spoken highly of Castle's administration skills during his application to replace Michael Cheika as Wallabies coach.
"I had a lot of time to think about it. I got an approach from Australia reasonably early on, so I did my homework," he said in January.
"Raelene flew to Jersey, we had a sit down for a few hours. She really impressed me. Smart and tough, really keen for change, and driven. The fact I know [director of rugby Scott Johnson], I felt the leadership here was really strong, I felt they'd have my back. That was a big part of it."
However, Castle on Monday dismissed the report that the coach would walk with her if she was tapped on the shoulder.
Castle is reportedly fighting for her job with a number of high profile Wallabies greats campaigning for Phil Kearns to replace her as RA chief executive.
A number of high profile Castle supporters on the RA board have also moved on since this month's Annual General Meeting where former chairman Cameron Clyne stepped down and Paul McLean took his office.