Raelene Castle was subject to "abhorrent" social-media "bullying" from "faceless names" during her time as Rugby Australia (RA) CEO, according to the body's interim chairman Paul McLean.

It was confirmed on Thursday that Castle had resigned from her role following internal and external pressures.

Castle faced criticism for RA's handling of the Israel Folau case and the rejection of an initial broadcast deal from FOX Sports.

RA has also faced financial issues from the coronavirus pandemic, but McLean defended Castle, who he said always worked decisively.

"Criticism is easy, being cynical is easy, but decision making is tough. She was able to do that and do that with some clarity," he said. 

"She would run through broken glass to get things done, and she has done that.

"One of my greatest concerns with Raelene was her welfare and how she was on a daily basis because a lesser person would have thrown the towel in ages ago, quite simply

"So the discussion that we had to have is: What is the succession plan if Raelene walked in or rang me and said 'I'm gone, I can't do this anymore'? So we've had some broader discussions about that for the last six months.

"And I suppose it crystallised with some new eyes around the table, and it probably crystallised given the circumstances we're all faced with from a general economy and how we're living our life at the moment. So that Wednesday evening discussion probably crystallised some thinking that had been happening for six months."

McLean hit out at the outside abuse Castle received and said certain sections of the media were guilty of reporting misinformation.

He added: "I think the things that you don't read, that you don't see, and I'm not a social media person, but I'm aware of some of the things that were said over a period of time in a quite vicious and vitriolic way. 

"So I think it's the silent forces, the dark forces, I suppose, are the things that upset me most.

"I think most of you as professionals on things like that would come through the front door and get the information correct before and then write about it. I think it's the people who didn't ask for the information, didn't know the facts, or were just one of those faceless people out there. That was the damaging thing from her perspective.

"And she shared some of that with me, which I found quite abhorrent. [If not for the] unwarranted criticism and, in fact, bullying, I think it might have been a different scenario."

Castle departed in the wake of a letter to RA from 11 former Australia captains demanding a change.

McLean said constructive talks had been held with Nick Farr-Jones, whose name was among the skippers who signed the letter.

"I've had numerous conversations with Nick Farr-Jones, and let's be clear here, it's a very small collective of people who have been involved in the game of late; the significance of that group is probably the people who aren't on the list... and I have had constructive discussions with Nick about that," McLean said.

"It's great that people want to put their hand up and be involved but they need to be a part of the process. And one of the things that we've done reasonably well over the last six months or so is be on the journey with the member unions."

Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle has quit her post amid pressure from the board and a raft of former Wallabies captains.

She confirmed her exit on Thursday in a statement to ABC early evening show 7.30 – saying fellow senior figures at Rugby Australia had called for "clean air" in the organisation.

Castle told the programme: "I made it clear to the board that I would stand up and take the flak and do everything possible to serve everyone's best interests.

"In the last couple of hours, it has been made clear to me that the board believes my no longer being the CEO would help give them the clear air they believe they need.

"The game is bigger than any one individual – so this evening I told the chair [Paul McLean] that I would resign from the role."

She departs in the wake of a letter to Rugby Australia from 11 former national team captains that called for the "current administration to heed our call and stand aside".

The skippers included Nick Farr-Jones, George Gregan, Michael Lynagh and Stirling Mortlock, with the letter leaked to Australian media.

It reportedly described Australian rugby as having "lost its way" due to "poor administration and leadership over a number of years".

The captains said: "We speak as one voice when we say Australian rugby needs new vision, leadership and a plan for the future.

"That plan must involve, as a priority, urgent steps to create a much-needed, sustainable, commercial rugby business."

Cricket Australia are considering all options to ensure the Test series against India goes ahead as scheduled later in 2020, including hosting all matches at the Adelaide Oval.

With Australia and many of the world's nations still in lockdown amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, sport in the country is suspended indefinitely.

India are scheduled to tour Australia from October to January, with four Tests planned along with three ODIs and three Twenty20 matches.

The T20 games are set to go ahead before the T20 World Cup, which is still due to take place in Australia between October and November.

While doubt remains over whether the tournament or tour will be able to go ahead, Cricket Australia’s chief executive Kevin Roberts is open to exploring every option.

"At this point, we won't rule anything out in terms of the Indian series," Roberts told reporters. 

"Along with the BCCI, the Indian players and their support staff, we want to stage a series that inspires the cricket world, whether or not there are people at the venue or not sitting in the stands.

"So we'll explore all viable options, many of which wouldn't have been contemplated until now. We are in a different world where all of a sudden we're being grateful for what we have rather than lament about things that we don't.

"What we are working on is our partnership with the BCCI. Whether that be about the pursuit of five-Test series in the future or whether it be about finding the most creative ways to ensure that together we can deliver an international Test series that inspires the cricket world throughout next summer.

"That's our focus. And we are planning for that and trying everything we can to make that happen."

One possibility that has been mooted is holding every match in Adelaide, with players housed in the ground's hotel - a solution Australia bowler Josh Hazlewood would be open to.

"It's obviously a last resort I guess," he said on Monday.

"But I think if anywhere could do it, it's probably Adelaide. It gives a bit to both batting and bowling. It's not ideal. We want to get around to all parts of Australia and challenge ourselves on all those different conditions, but if it had to happen, that's probably one of the best spots for it."

Rugby Australia (RA) is discussing the possibility of playing a makeshift trans-Tasman competition and Bledisloe Cup series later this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Super Rugby season was suspended last month due to COVID-19 and plans for a domestic competition as part of a way to continue the campaign were put on hold.

Australia and New Zealand, however, have managed to halt the spread of coronavirus and travel conditions could eventually be eased.

After agreeing a pay cut with players on Monday, RA is eyeing a provincial competition and a 2020 Bledisloe Cup series between the Wallabies and All Blacks.

"Yeah it's certainly one of the models that we've got worked through at the moment and we remain in consistent discussions with New Zealand because obviously that makes a lot of sense," RA chief executive Raelene Castle told reporters via a conference call on Tuesday.

"The indications we're getting from government agencies is that the sequence of opening up is likely to be domestic first, then into maybe trans-Tasman and maybe Pacific, and then international.

"So we have a number of different scenarios that we are [looking at] and that's certainly one that we are in conversations with New Zealand about."

Castle added: "If the governments don't let us travel and the governments don't open international borders to allow teams to come in to this environment, we might not have any choice but to review what the structures look like [in terms of] what we deliver at the back-end of this year and then potentially what we could deliver into '21.

"So it won't be driven by what SANZAAR want to do, it will be driven by what governments allow and which countries open up their borders at what times. And certainly all of the indications that we are getting from the Australian and New Zealand governments is that they are very proud of the fact that they've managed to control this very well and limited the damage and the loss of life, and they're not willing to open that up again quickly to risk that they go backwards again.

"So that's an overlay that we as a SANZAAR community have to be dealing with and those are conversations that are actively happening."

Rugby Australia (RA) has agreed an average 60 per cent wage cut with players until September as it continues to deal with the financial ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic.

An agreement was struck following weeks of protracted talks between RA, the nation's Super Rugby teams and the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA).

The news will affect 192 professional players in Australia and could reportedly save RA up to 83 per cent on payments between April and September.

Earlier in April, the organisation stood down 75 per cent of its staff for three months after warning 120million Australian dollars could be lost in revenue if the season was to end due to the global health crisis.

New terms will be discussed if the season resumes before September 30.

"This has not been an easy discussion, but it has been a necessary one to ensure that we are able to emerge from the other side of this crisis in the best possible position for the game to move forward. It is important to note that these measures are a stop-gap, not a full-stop," said RA chief executive Raelene Castle, who has taken a 65 per cent salary cut for six months.

"We are deep into our planning to ensure we are able to navigate our way through this and be ready for competition to resume as soon as that is possible.

“The players have been involved in this process and we look forward to continuing that work and seeing them back out on the field doing what they do best.

"The structure of our game is complex with the international models of SANZAAR, the Sevens World Series and the Olympic Games, and players in all forms of the game will be impacted differently. These differences for our athletes add complexity to the discussions and so continuing to work together is critical to getting the best outcomes for all.

"The country is missing rugby and we are all looking forward to the day that players can return to the field and fans to the stands."

RUPA CEO Justin Harrison added: "Australia's professional players will play a central role in the short–term preservation of the game by accepting a significant reduction in pay in order for necessary transformation to begin.

"The players reached a resolution with the Member Unions and Rugby Australia today.

"RUPA's members understand their part in the game's immediate future and the responsibility that goes with it. The players have voted as a block in supporting RUPA's recommendation."

Several unions have implemented measures to help cope with the financial burden caused by COVID-19, with New Zealand Rugby announcing a 50 per cent pay freeze with its players for the remainder of the year.

Last week, World Rugby announced a $100m relief fund would be made available to support struggling unions.

Australia are scheduled to face Ireland and Fiji in July, although the likelihood of those matches taking place appears slim. 

Josh Hazlewood admitted he was surprised by the dire financial situation Cricket Australia (CA) reportedly finds itself in, but said players were ready to play their part.

CA announced last week it was standing down most of its staff on reduced pay from April 27 until the end of the financial year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cricket is just the latest sport to be impacted financially by COVID-19 despite getting through most of its scheduled fixtures for this season in Australia.

Australia paceman Hazlewood said news of CA's financial position was surprising.

"It probably took me a little bit by surprise," he told reporters via video on Monday.

"Just due to the fact that it's probably happened at the perfect time, this pandemic, for Cricket Australia I guess. It happening in March compared to the footy codes who are really in some trouble heading into their season, a little bit surprised there.

"But there's going to be some impacts no doubt, we're no different from any other sport and I guess it depends how long it hangs around as to how much it's going to affect us I guess.

"If it leads into next summer it can be quite serious so obviously playing it by ear at the moment and we'll see where we end up."

Hazlewood said the players were prepared to do what was needed amid the financial worries.

"We're obviously partners in the game and we've always said that. We've ridden the highs and now is probably the time to ride the lows a little bit," he said.

"We've always said we're partners in the game and see what it comes to and we'll obviously play our part."

Ben Stokes admitted all those involved with the England team will never forget what happened at Headingley in 2019 after he re-watched the dramatic conclusion to the third Ashes Test.

With the global coronavirus crisis shutting down the cricket schedule, Stokes and Test captain Joe Root joined Sky Sports pundits Rob Key and Nasser Hussain to view the final stages of the famous game against Australia last August.

As the footage played out in full, the all-rounder provided a unique insight into what was going through his mind as he dragged his side to an improbable one-wicket triumph, aided by one not out from number 11 Jack Leach.

Stokes, meanwhile, finished up unbeaten on 135 as the hosts reached a victory target of 359, an astonishing achievement considering they had been nine down in their second innings with 73 runs still required.

"It's always going to be great memories, one of the great days – not just out on the field but memories we will always have together as a group," Stokes said on Sky Sports after the moment was aired of him hitting the winning boundary through the covers.

"The changing room is sacred as a cricketer – that evening after this day was just sensational.

"Us, as a group of players, the support group and team management, will always be able to look back at that day, on the field with what happened and then also memories we created in the changing room. It's awesome, so good."

Both Stokes and Root admitted they were sweating while taking in the action despite already knowing the outcome, though the former had to look away at the moment when Australia missed the chance to run out Leach with two runs needed.

Nathan Lyon had been unable to claim the throw but thought he had redeemed himself with a loud lbw shout in the same over, only for umpire Joel Wilson to turn down the appeal. The tourists had already used up their final review too, denying them the opportunity to challenge a decision that would have been overturned with the aid of DRS.

"Joel Wilson will always have a special place in my heart for that moment," Root joked.

Stokes, however, remained convinced it was always missing, adding: "Going down leg, mate. It doesn't spin."

Asked to recall his thoughts immediately after the victory, skipper Root - who contributed 77 in the successful chase - replied: "Relieved. Extremely proud of Ben as well.

"The journey he had been on the year before, for him to be the centre of everything was perfect for him. He's a massive part of the team and the dressing room and I couldn't have been prouder of him."

Australia lost in Leeds but still went on to retain the Ashes in the next game, beating their rivals at Old Trafford. The series finished 2-2, England victorious in the final Test at The Oval.

England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) managing director of men's cricket Ashley Giles is holding out hope for a full international schedule after the coronavirus pandemic.

The ECB announced last month that no professional cricket will be played until May 28 due to the spread of COVID-19, though that date could yet be extended.

England are due to face West Indies in a three-match Test series starting on June 4, with a series against Pakistan to follow. Limited-overs games against Australia, Pakistan and Ireland are also on the schedule.

Giles is trying to retain a positive outlook and is open to trying to cram in as many games as possible rather than trimming back the fixture list.

"I'm positive that we'll get some cricket in later in the summer," said Giles. "What exactly that looks like I don't know. But we have to be [positive] when we're planning, otherwise it becomes ever decreasing circles and we just get more and more down on the situation. 

"In terms of playing across formats at the same time, we will do whatever we have to do. We will be flexible. By no means would that be ideal but this goes far beyond that. There's some bigger picture stuff here, apart from the health crisis that's going on.

"I don't think anything's off the table, I think it is a blank sheet. If we have to do it, we will. In terms of cricket performance, whilst it not be ideal from a playing point of view, in the long run it might give us a better look at more players and a broader group of people that we might have to play in the future anyway.

"In that sense, it would give greater opportunity. Everything's on the table. I think it would be wrong of me to sit in these meetings – as much as I fight the professional and players' side – there is a bigger picture here and we are going to have to adapt and be as flexible as everyone else."

He added: "In terms of cricket, we're looking at all scenarios and probably with a focus on protecting some of our bigger games. The big games for us in terms of international teams, Test matches, one-dayers, T20Is, looking at scenarios where we can push those back as far as possible without losing any cricket.

"That is possible and I think we have to hang on to hope that we will get out there and we will play. Whether that's behind closed doors or in front of full houses, no one of us quite know. The priority is to doing what the government tells us to do and to keep everyone safe."

Australia coach Justin Langer is open to the idea of playing games behind closed doors once cricket can resume after the coronavirus pandemic.

Langer watched on as his side emphatically defeated New Zealand in a one-dayer played inside an empty Sydney Cricket Ground last month.

It was due to be the first of three matches between the trans-Tasman rivals, though the series was cut short due the COVID-19 outbreak as the Black Caps returned home in time to avoid quarantine restrictions.

While there is no immediate sign of a resumption to the international schedule, staging contests without any supporters could be a viable option in the future.

"The Australian cricket team are so fortunate to play in front of big crowds every time we play," Langer told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"But for the love of the game, and for still being able to entertain people through TV sets or radio, then there's value in that (playing behind closed doors).

"Yes, it's different, but we'll never, ever, ever take for granted how lucky we are, ever again. We are so lucky in what we do."

Australia are due to play a two-Test series in Bangladesh in June, followed by a limited-overs tour to the United Kingdom that runs into July.

 

Rugby Australia (RA) declared "good progress" had been made as emergency pay talks with the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) continued, though an agreement is yet to be reached between both parties.

The governing body recently stood down 75 per cent of its workforce for three months - a move described as "the toughest decision in the game's history" - as it deals with the cost of the coronavirus crisis that has halted the Super Rugby season.

Remaining staff have been offered significant salary reductions or reduced hours, with chief executive Raelene Castle agreeing to a 50 per cent salary cut, while other executives will receive 30 per cent less from April 1 until June 30.

In a statement, RA said "positive and robust" negotiations were held with RUPA again as they aim to work out a "fair and reasonable" deal for players during the unprecedented circumstances created by the global pandemic.

"Representatives of Rugby Australia and the Rugby Union Players Association met again today and made good progress in the process of negotiating an emergency and interim pay deal in response to the global COVID-19 crisis," a statement read.

"Talks were positive and robust, with both parties agreeing to continue to move negotiations forward with ongoing discussions scheduled for this week. 

"Rugby Australia remains focused on securing a fair and reasonable deal with the players that will help protect the long-term future of our game.

"We also welcome recent comments by World Rugby as it assists all national unions to navigate through this very difficult time.

"The players understand that the burden must be shared by everyone in our game and we will look to reach an agreement which is fair and reasonable given the extraordinary circumstances we are in."

A plan was put in place to start a five-team domestic competition during the suspension of Super Rugby, but that will not happen until the start of May at the earliest.

Pat Cummins revealed he is in regular contact with Kolkata Knight Riders over the postponed Indian Premier League season, which may yet be moved to later in 2020.

The latest edition of the tournament was due to begin on March 29 with a rematch of last year's final between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, but the coronavirus pandemic has put the IPL - along with all other major sporting events - on hold.

India has a travel ban in place for all international flights until April 14, meaning Australian fast bowler Cummins remains in his homeland as he waits for an update on the situation.

Media reports in India have suggested organisers may shift the campaign to take place in October and November instead, though such a move could only be made if the International Cricket Council decides to cancel the Twenty20 World Cup, which is due to take place at a similar time in Australia.

"Everything is changing, literally every single day," Cummins said during a video conference call with reporters on Friday. "The last I spoke to them (the Knight Riders), they said they're still really confident and hopeful it will be on at some stage.

"They obviously haven't cancelled it or anything like that yet. It's still a bit of a holding pattern, so we're in contact with our teams every few days.

"Obviously everyone is still really keen for it to go ahead, but the priority is to minimise risk of this spreading.

"It's going to be pretty tight, I think the travel ban (in India) is in place until April 14, so I don't expect anything too soon to happen."

While disappointed at not being able to play for the Knight Riders right now, Cummins - who became the IPL's most expensive overseas signing at December's auction - is making the most of the unexpected break following a hectic 12 months.

The bowler was part of Australia's squad for the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England and then also the Ashes series that followed, while he was a regular in all formats throughout a busy summer schedule on home soil.

"The preference would be to be over there (at the IPL) playing, but I think the silver lining is we do get a bit of a break," Cummins told the media.

"We're lucky in cricket, that it [the IPL] is right at the end of the season. We've played basically our whole season out, except for the last couple of games (against New Zealand) and we're always looking for those small breaks to refresh.

"But it almost feels like the start of an off-season at the moment, albeit we're all training by ourselves at home rather than going to the team gym."

Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Bill Sweeney said boards across the world want to help Rugby Australia (RA) after it reported financial problems amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With rugby union leagues and competitions being shut down in a bid to combat the spread of COVID-19, RA stood down 75 per cent of its working staff for three months earlier this week, shortly after it had revealed a provisional deficit of 9.4 million Australian dollars in 2019.

USA Rugby has also filed for bankruptcy, claiming the suspensions caused by coronavirus, and the uncertainty about the future, had accelerated financial problems.

Sweeney conceded those announcements have caused concern among the world's unions, who are trying to collaborate on potential solutions to aid those struggling.

"The USA, quite frankly, were struggling somewhat before the crisis hit anyway – so they were perhaps the most vulnerable of anybody," Sweeney explained.

"I know World Rugby are in conversations with them in terms of how they can sustain the game in that country.

"Australia have been reported as being in a weaker position than a lot of others.

"There is an unprecedented amount of dialogue going on between all the unions and the relationship between the north and the south [hemispheres] has probably never been better, and we are just looking at various ways we can structure things that everybody can benefit and find solutions to these challenges ahead.

"It's in no one's interest for Australia to get into even more serious difficulties."

Eddie Jones' England are due to tour Japan in July for a two-Test series against the Brave Blossoms.

However, given the Olympics - staged in Tokyo - has already been put back a year to July 2021, it would appear unlikely England will embark on that tour when scheduled.

"We are in regular dialogue with World Rugby and a lot of the other unions as well around the world," Sweeney added.

"This is a conversation we are having around the July tours. It's a bit too early to say. We expect to be able to make a decision on that towards the end of April."

Australia star Andrew Bogut is "still very keen" to play at the Olympics despite the Tokyo Games being pushed back until 2021.

Bogut, 35, was expected to lead the Boomers at the Olympics this year, but the Games have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It led to questions over Bogut's future, but the Olympics remain a goal for the veteran, an NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors in 2015.

"I'm still very keen. Obviously the plans for me were to get to the Olympics this year and then reassess," he told SEN on Thursday.

"That's been thrown out of the window. I'm still up in the air about exactly what I'm going to do and how I go about my journey getting there and all that, I still haven't decided one way or another.

"I think it's going to be a moving parts type thing and I think the main priority right now is to get this pandemic squashed.

"Then, we can all make real-world decisions about our jobs and our families and all that kind of stuff, but until that happens it's kind of senseless to make decisions based on not knowing when the future's going to be open slather again."

Australia have never won a medal in men's basketball at the Olympics, but finished fourth at the Rio Games in 2016.

Netball players in the Suncorp Super Netball in Australia have agreed to 70 per cent pay cut in light of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe and that has prevented the league from getting started this season.

Rugby Australia (RA) has stood down 75 per cent of its workforce for three months in a move it called "the toughest decision in the game's history".

Its remaining staff have been offered significant salary reductions or reduced hours after the coronavirus outbreak brought Super Rugby and the international game to a halt.

RA chief executive Raelene Castle has agreed to a 50 per cent pay cut, while other executives will receive 30 per cent less from April 1 until June 30.

Plans to launch a five-team domestic competition during the suspension of Super Rugby have been put on hold until at least May 1.

Castle said in a statement on Tuesday: "Today we have had to deliver the hardest news imaginable to our incredible, hard-working and passionate staff, that many of them will be stood down for a three-month period so that the game can survive this unprecedented crisis.

"Since the suspension of our proposed domestic Super Rugby competition, we have been working to understand both the immediate and long-term financial implications for the game as a result of the suspension of the competition, and potential further loss of revenue-generating content as we look ahead to the international season.

"Our extensive modelling shows that as a code, we could lose up to [AU]$120million in revenue should it not be possible for any rugby to be played in 2020. Of course, that is the worst-case scenario, and we are very hopeful that we can recommence the Super Rugby season and domestic Wallabies Test matches at some point this year.

"The measures we will implement from April 1, although extremely painful, are necessary to ensure the sport remains financially viable and to ensure that we are able to come out the other side of this global crisis, fully operational and ready to throw everything into the rebuild. It is our priority to keep all of our valued team connected and engaged through this period.

"We shared with the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) today the breadth of our cost-cutting including the standing down of 75 per cent of our staff. We will work closely with RUPA to reach an agreement which is appropriate given this unprecedented situation.

"I want to pay tribute to each and every member of staff across our rugby organisations and once again stress that once we get through this crisis, and we will, rugby will be back stronger than ever. All staff on stand down will have continued access to Rugby Australia support services during this time."

The Rebels and Brumbies announced all their employees would be stood down or continue with reduced pay until the end of June.

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