SYDNEY (Reuters) -Former Wallabies flanker Phil Waugh said mending the fracture between the grassroots and the professional game was a major priority after being named the new chief executive of Rugby Australia (RA) on Tuesday.
The 43-year-old, who won 79 caps for Australia from 2000 to 2009 before building a career in banking, is the first former test player to hold the post and will succeed Andy Marinos after the Zimbabwean announced his decision to step down last month.
"It's a massive honour, a massive privilege, but most importantly a huge responsibility to ensure that rugby thrives across the nation," Waugh told a news conference.
"Ensuring that we've got that connection from the grassroots through to the national jersey is very important. The game starts and ends in our clubs and we need to really invest in that space."
Waugh has been a non-executive director on the RA board since 2018 and has a close relationship with Chairman Hamish McLennan, who has become increasingly influential since taking up the role in 2020.
McLennan was the driving force behind the sacking of coach Dave Rennie in January and his replacement by Eddie Jones as well as the big money signing of rugby league player Joseph Suaalii for the 2025 season.
"He is very performance driven, we've seen that in his business career," McLennan said of Waugh.
"We've had healthy debates and disagreements on a range of issues, but we've always ended up in a better place. Everyone respects Waughy, internally and externally."
Waugh, an uncompromising loose forward, played part of his test career under Jones, including at the 2003 World Cup on home soil where he was part of the Wallabies team that lost to England in the final.
Australia will again host the World Cup in 2027 and welcome the British and Irish Lions in 2025, offering RA the opportunity to put behind it the financial issues that almost forced the body to close its doors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2029 women's Rugby World Cup will also take place in Australia, while the 2026 Commonwealth Games in the state of Victoria and 2032 Brisbane Olympics will have Rugby Sevens tournaments.
"I'm genuinely excited about what's coming for us. We're calling it the golden decade," Waugh added.
"I certainly believe that we can be the best in the world in all formats."
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, Editing by Himani Sarkar and Sonali Paul)