O'Neill to stand down in 2013

2011-10-18 09:28

Auckland - John O'Neill said on Tuesday he would stand down as chief executive of the Australian Rugby Union in 2013 after the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia.

The high-profile ARU administrator, in making his announcement in Auckland, has ruled himself out of choosing between incumbent Robbie Deans and successful Queensland Reds' mentor Ewen McKenzie as Wallabies' coach for the next World Cup campaign in 2015.

The ARU has been criticised for extending Deans's contract for a further two years up to 2013 before the current Rugby World Cup, where Australia were knocked out in the semi-finals by New Zealand.

Sunday's loss at Eden Park has strengthened the belief in some quarters that McKenzie, coach of the Super Rugby-winning Reds, should take over the Wallabies as soon as possible.

"That won't be my call," O'Neill told reporters. "My contract is up at the end of 2013 and it will not be a decision that will involve me.

"If I'd left as originally intended, 30 June next year, I would not have involved myself in Robbie's extension - that was in agreement with the board.

"The board that is in situ for 2013 will be making those calls and I'll be preparing to ride off, probably much to the relief of some people, into the sunset and it would be inappropriate for me to be involved in that."

It will be the second time O'Neill, the ARU's CEO and managing director will move on from the role after leaving rugby in 2004 and then guiding the operations of Football Federation Australia before returning to the ARU.

Meanwhile O'Neill defended two-time champions Australia's semi-final finish, saying the Wallabies paid the price for inconsistency and being outmuscled up front by Ireland, who beat them 15-6 during pool play in a major tournament upset, and New Zealand.

"It's not a successful campaign but the board from the outset said the pass mark was making the semis, so we've got a pass mark," he said.

"It's not slit your wrists time, the year's been a pretty good year.

"The Tri Nations victory can't be scoffed at, the Super Rugby victory by the Reds, the general resurgence in interest in rugby is good, it still has some distance to go, but in totality of the last 18 months we're back on the map."

David Nucifora, coaching coordinator and head of Australian Rugby's High Performance Team, will figure in a full review of the World Cup campaign, along with the members of the ARU board, including former Wallabies Brett Robinson, Michael Hawker, Mark Connors and John Eales.

Deans has a winning percentage of 57.4 in 54 Tests since 2008 - one of the lowest of any Wallaby coach in the professional era - but he has rebuilt the Test team by bringing through young stars Will Genia, David Pocock, Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor.