Sir John Kirwan, Mils Muliaina and Jeff Wilson have brought Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan to his knees over the timing and nature of his threat to leave Super Rugby Pacific.
In a move widely seen as a tactic to squeeze more money out of New Zealand rugby, McLennan said last week that “all bets were on” after Super Rugby Pacific’s two-year deal expires next year.
That provoked an angry reaction from the trio of former All Blacks The breakdown on Sunday, who saw it as a cynical and unnecessary negotiating tactic that would put pressure on Super Rugby Pacific newcomers Moana Pasifika and the Fiji Drua.
“I think it’s all talk,” Muliaina said. “I’m disappointed too.
* Super Rugby Pacific: Why Rugby Australia threatened to leave NZ Rugby stranded
* Whipping boys to attacking tricks: How the Australians reignited the super rugby rivalry
* George Kruis’ backheels conversion as the barbarians route Eddie Jones’ England
* In Numbers: How the Black Ferns got back to winning ways in the Pacific Four Series
* Dropped All Black’s prop starts quest to “prove some people wrong”
“Just because of the fact that we talked about Moana and the Drua… they finally get into a contest 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 was so great and hearing things like that the week of the finals. That’s just crap.”
Kirwan said leaving Super Rugby is “the stupidest political decision they have [Rugby Australia] could do,” and while strongly supportive of Australia’s teams in the competition, he challenged McLennan to get a better TV deal.
“Is this about money? From what I’ve read he wants some of our money, Sky money, which we pay New Zealand Rugby Union,” Kirwan said.
“But I’m like, ‘Hey, don’t you have to go and get 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 Australians cannot afford to run five super rugby clubs that cost at least 10 million to operate US dollars per year.
Wilson said New Zealand and Australia “needed each other” to build Super Rugby Pacific into a strong competition but couldn’t hide his frustration at McLennan’s comments.
“I think it’s just a pure power play when it comes to negotiating more money for Australian rugby,” Wilson said.
“I’m sorely disappointed to hear him talk like that,” Wilson said.
“When you commit to something for a few years, commit to the sides of Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua… how do you think they’re feeling right now, Hamish?
“Regarding the fact that you’ve opened a door for them and you’re thinking, ‘We’re going to walk away from them now because it’s in our best interests, or we think we are?’
“I’ll give you an example. Australian netball is in the hole for $4 million. They have withdrawn from trans-Tasman competition with New Zealand and are worse off financially.
“There is danger if you go away. To be fair we need them too and I get where they’re coming from…we made something, they made a commitment to it and now they’re talking about walking away?
“I’m really disappointed with that because it tells me something about our relationship.”