Outgoing ARU chief Bill Pulver has hit back at allegations raised in Monday night’s final senate inquiry hearing, which suggested former Melbourne Rebels owner Andrew Cox siphoned millions of dollars of grant money into non-rugby interests.
It was ARU chairman Cameron Clyne’s turn to defend the culling of the Western Force when he faced questions in Canberra from senator Linda Reynolds, who alleged up to $6 million of Rebels funding provided by the national body was funnelled into Cox’s various companies.
The Force’s drawn-out axing from the Super Rugby competition in August led to two failed court appeals and a senate inquiry, which is expected to deliver a report in mid-November.
Pulver fell on his sword following the announcement the Force would be removed from the competition and will leave his post as chief executive as soon as a replacement is found.
Speaking to Fairfax Media on Wednesday after announcing a home three-Test series against Ireland to be played in June next year, Pulver rubbished the suggestions about the former Rebels owner.
“My understanding is that’s complete nonsense,” Pulver said.
“The funding relationship between the n Rugby Union and the Rebels was a confidential document.
“We review all their financials. He also had a business partner, he owned a majority of the entity and there was a minority shareholder.
“I am not aware of him siphoning money off into other businesses. Where that’s coming from I have no idea.”
West n mining magnate Andrew Forrest offered a reported $50 million to the ARU to keep the Western Force in the competition, but that was rejected.
Forrest announced in the aftermath of the Force’s demise that he planned on starting a rebel rugby competition involving teams from the Indo-Pacific region.
The ARU has developed a working party headed by deputy chairman Dr Brett Robinson that has been working with World Rugby to help facilitate the implementation of the new competition, but Pulver said there was still much to be done if the rebel league was to get off the ground by 2018.
“It’s a pretty rigorous process, n Rugby and World Rugby ultimately have to approve any international competition like that,” Pulver said.
“It’s a lot of work to set up an international competition like that so we’re working very closely with them. They’re also reaching out to other countries that might be involved and they’re also having meetings with World Rugby, so there’s a lot of engagement going on.
“It’s their time frame not ours. Our understanding is [Forrest] is keen to get the first version of this competition up and running next year, in which case there’s an awful lot to do.”
The ARU has appointed a recruitment firm to seek a replacement for Pulver, who hopes to leave his post by Christmas, and an interview process will begin in the coming weeks.
Pulver plans to take the year off once a new chief executive is appointed.
Ireland president Michael Higgins was in Sydney on Wednesday to announce the first three-Test series to be played between and their northern hemisphere rivals.
Brisbane will host the series opener on June 9, before games in Melbourne (June 16) and Sydney (June 23) as the Wallabies look to extend their unbeaten run against the Irish on n soil, which stretches back to 1979.
“There’s been a wonderful rivalry between our two teams in recent years and, in particular, the Irish team has performed superbly in the last couple of years,” Pulver said.
“We are neck and neck vying for that No.3 and No.4 position in the world. We’re sincerely looking forward to having a sea of green up and down the eastern seaboard June next year.”
Ireland have put together a submission to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, up against France and South Africa. is one of 39 voting bodies that will decide which bid is successful.