ARU chief O'Neill steps down early
Australian rugby supremo John O'Neill will stand down as Australian Rugby Union chief executive at the end of the month, the ARU said on Friday.
The ARU board and O'Neill, who has been a strong supporter of embattled Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, said they had reached agreement to bring forward a departure date originally planned for late next year.
The resignation will allow O'Neill – who has spent almost 14 years in two stints in the role – to concentrate on other business interests, the ARU said.
O'Neill was CEO of the ARU from 1995 to 2004 and stepped down after successfully organising the 2003 World Cup in Australia. He spent three years at the head of Football Federation Australia before returning to the ARU in 2007.
He played a pivotal role in luring Deans from New Zealand to become the first foreign coach of the Wallabies in 2008.
Current deputy chief executive Matt Carroll will be acting CEO from next month while a global search is conducted for a long-term replacement, the ARU said.
O'Neill said Australian rugby was positioned for a bright future.
"I am honoured during my second term at the ARU to have played a role in shaping the transformation of the game and I look forward to seeing Australian rugby go from strength to strength," he said.
ARU Chairman Michael Hawker said O'Neill had been a wonderful and committed contributor to the game over a long period of time and was stepping down after having laid the foundation for an important evolutionary phase for Australian rugby.
"John's workload beyond rugby has recently grown significantly and unexpectedly," Hawker said.
"John had previously indicated he was standing down when his contract ended next year, so the timing of his resignation is now logical for both him and the ARU."
While O'Neill is standing down from an executive role at ARU, he will continue to serve as an ARU delegate to the International Rugby Board, as Chairman of the IRB Regulations Committee, and as a Board member of Rugby World Cup Ltd, the ARU said.