Former Rugby Australia (RA) chief executive Raelene Castle said she received death threats over the handling of the Israel Folau case.

Folau was sacked by RA in May 2019 for what the body described as a "high-level breach" of its code after he posted hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" on social media having been warned over previous online posts in 2018.

A settlement was later reached between the two parties after Folau claimed for wrongful dismissal.

Castle, who quit her role in April this year following pressure from the board and a host of ex-Wallabies captains, opened up on the measures that had to be put in place after she was threatened by a Folau supporter.

"I had some very difficult times during it, particularly with social media and death threats," Castle said as a keynote speaker at the Women in Sport Aotearoa and trans-Tasman Business Circle's 'Change Inspires Change' session.

"We had to close down the office and have extra security, and my house had to be checked out to make sure that it was safe and that no one could get into it or find me.

"Certainly in my time here in Australia [I] have generated and earned a lot of new battle scars, some probably deeper than I'd planned."

Castle said she has no regrets over the situation and spoke of the "resilience" that was required.

"The reality of it is that we were very firm in our values. So we're very clear that [Folau's] social media messaging was totally inappropriate. It was a breach of an employment contract," she added.

"But it was also about the values the organisation stood for, and unless you're actually prepared to stand up and back in those values, and say 'yes, that's what we believe in and this is who we stand for as an organisation', then those values don't mean anything to anyone.

"The resilience required to make sure that we could work through what was a very difficult and long situation, that went for about 12 months [and that] was something that certainly for me created another layer of resilience.

"[Resilience] certainly helps you when you can lead through really difficult times.

"You really can't run your business through social media feedback. Otherwise, your strategy would be all over the place. 

"You have to be brave enough to say 'this is it, this is what I'm doing' and stick to it.

"But certainly for me those trusted advisers who helped guide me, and also give me some really clear and honest feedback are the people that helped me through those difficult times."

The Rebels fell to a dramatic 38-32 defeat to the Waratahs but Matt Toomua's late penalty significantly enhanced their Super Rugby AU finals hopes.

Toomua split the posts from an acute angle in the 77th minute to secure losing bonus point, meaning the Rebels will reach the knockout stage at the expense of the Waratahs if they overcome winless Western Force by four points or more next weekend.

Jake Gordon put the Waratahs – who, with a bye in the final round, needed a bonus-point win and to deny the Rebels one seal third place – ahead and they had a 17-10 lead at half-time, with Toomua converting his own try to reduce the deficit after Jack Dempsey went over.

Harry Johnson-Holmes' score and Australia captain Michael Hooper teeing up Joey Walton put the Waratahs in control after a frantic start to the second half.

Marika Koroibete and Isi Naisarani touched down as the Rebels began to fight back – the latter going over for the second time in the game while Matt Philip was in the sin bin for repeated infringements.

The Waratahs move nine points clear, though, when Will Harrison forced his way over after charging down Andrew Deegan's kick in the 74th minute and added the extras.

However, Toomua's late penalty ensured the Rebels did not leave empty handed and have their future in their own hands with one game remaining.

The Western Force's wait for a first Super Rugby AU victory goes on after they were beaten 28-8 by the Waratahs on Friday.

Michael Hooper celebrated his 150th Super Rugby game with a victory at Cbus Super Stadium, as the Waratahs outscored the bottom-of-the-table Force by three tries to one.

The Force led twice in the first half courtesy of a Brynard Stander try and a penalty from Ian Prior, but Alex Newsome's try and 11 points from the boot of Will Harrison gave the Waratahs a 16-8 advantage at the break.

There was no way back for the Force after the interval, Jack Maddocks' intercept try giving Rob Penney's side breathing space and Harry Johnson-Holmes crashing over in the closing stages on the Gold Coast.

The Waratahs, who welcomed Rob Simmons back from injury, are up to second after securing back-to-back Super Rugby victories for the first time since March 2019.

Jake Gordon scored a hat-trick of tries as the Waratahs produced a stunning first half in a record 45-12 win over the Reds on Saturday.

Scrum-half Gordon crossed for three of his side's five tries before the break, Jack Maddocks and Alex Newsome also touching down during the onslaught at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Will Harrison converted them all following a fifth-minute penalty that had opened the scoring, his boot helping the Tahs open up a stunning 38-0 lead midway through the Super Rugby AU contest.

Tom Horton added to their advantage with a close-range finish in the 52nd minute, this time Ben Donaldson adding the extras in wet conditions following steady rain.

Jack Hardy finally grabbed the visiting Reds' first points with a try soon after, while James O'Connor went over in the final move of the game for a score the fly-half also converted.

However, despite the late points, the final margin of victory for Waratahs is the biggest in a Super Rugby meeting between the sides.

Australia lock Rob Simmons will leave the Waratahs at the end of the Super Rugby AU season and is set to join London Irish.

Simmons has won 100 caps for the Wallabies, but it remains to be seen if he has played his last Test after sealing a move to England.

The loss of the 31-year-old captain is a big blow for the Waratahs, where he arrived in 2018 following nine seasons with the Reds.

Simmons will join compatriots Nick Phipps, Sekope Kepu and Adam Coleman at ambitious Premiership club the Exiles.

He said: "It was a really tough decision [to leave] but after speaking with many people around me, I felt that now was the time to take the opportunity to play overseas.

"Timing with situations like this can't always be perfect, but the Waratahs have been fantastic in understanding my desire to take on a new challenge.

"I've loved my time in Super Rugby and the last few years with the Waratahs, it's a wonderful organisation and it's been an honour to lead this group throughout 2020.

"My team-mates and our management team have been tremendous over the last few years, there's a lot to be excited about here in New South Wales and I'm looking forward to seeing it unfold from afar."

Matt Toomua booted 19 points as the Melbourne Rebels inflicted a painful 29-10 defeat on a struggling Waratahs side in Super Rugby AU.

For the Rebels, it was a record margin of victory over the Waratahs, surpassing the 24-10 win they achieved in February of this year.

Ryan Louwrens and Marika Koroibete scored the tries for the Rebels, Louwrens driving over in the 37th minute and Koroibete dashing in three minutes from the end of the game at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The Waratahs had been keeping pace early on, thanks to a converted try from wing Alex Newsome, but they repeatedly gave away penalties and it cost them dearly.

Waratahs coach Rob Penney afterwards claimed his team, "weren't where we needed to be emotionally and the Rebels taught us a lesson".

"I think we were out-muscled and I think we were out-passioned today," he added.

Compounding the misery was a broken rib injury sustained by Rob Simmons, the Waratahs captain.

Rebels coach Dave Wessels, quoted on the Super Rugby website, praised his pack, saying: "I'm very proud, in particular, of our young forwards. There's a lot of young backs going around the comp that are getting a lot of praise, but I'm proud of the forwards that are developing."

Late magic from Issak Fines helped the Brumbies snatch a dramatic 24-23 win over the Waratahs in Saturday's Super Rugby AU clash at ANZ Stadium.

The visitors trailed 20-5 after 33 minutes despite having grabbed an early lead through Thomas Cusack after Will Harrison failed to gather in a kick.

Two Harrison penalties moved the Waratahs ahead before Tom Horton marked his first start by spinning away from a maul to score.

Quick thinking from Harrison and James Ramm saw the latter gather the fly-half's kick to the left wing to put the Waratahs in control, but Folau Fainga'a reduced the deficit, the television match official spotting he had just grounded on the line when under pressure.

Tom Wright's run allowed Rob Valetini to score again before the break, but another Harrison penalty gave the Waratahs a six-point advantage that looked likely to be enough.

However, with only three minutes remaining, Fines found a gap to surge through beneath the posts, with Bayley Kuenzle's conversion enough to steal the victory and send the Brumbies second.

Western Force felt a sense of deja vu as they squandered a healthy lead to suffer a 31-24 Super Rugby AU defeat to leaders the Reds on Friday.

The Force were beaten by the Waratahs on their Super Rugby return last week after opening up a 14-point advantage, and it was an all-too-familiar story for Tim Sampson's side at Suncorp Stadium.

They once again surged into a 14-point lead courtesy of converted tries from Jack McGregor and Byron Ralston, but Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Jock Campbell and Taniela Tupou touched down at the other end in the space of just eight minutes.

Ralston's intercept try on the stroke of half-time reduced the deficit, with Jono Lance missing the chance to level when his conversion was charged down in front of the posts by Filipo Daugunu.

Daugunu added insult to injury by extending the Reds' lead with a try five minutes into the second half, but Andrew Ready gave the Force hope by going over from the back of a lineout 10 minutes from time.

The unbeaten Reds were not to be denied a second win from three, though, James O'Connor slotting over a drop-goal in the closing stages to take his tally for the night to 11 points.

There was no winning return to Super Rugby for Western Force as they were beaten 23-14 by the Waratahs at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday.

The Perth-based franchise were axed from Super Rugby three years ago, but returned for Super Rugby AU - a new domestic competition arranged due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It was all going so well for the Force as they scored 14 points without reply in the first half, Byron Ralston claiming the opening try and Ian Prior on target with three penalties.

The Waratahs roared back after a slow start, Gus Bell striking a blow to the Force by touching down on the stroke of half-time and Tom Staniforth crossing after the break.

Will Harrison booted 13 points as Rob Penney's side secured a first victory in their second match. 

James O'Connor's late double with his boot gave the Reds a long-awaited win over rivals the Waratahs in the Super Rugby AU opener.

The Australia-based competition has replaced the usual Super Rugby tournament due to the coronavirus pandemic, kicking off on Friday.

The curtain-raiser certainly delivered as the Reds ended a seven-year, 11-match win drought against the Waratahs.

The two teams were neck and neck for much of the contest at Suncorp Stadium, with Will Harrison's kicking keeping New South Wales in touch as the Reds scored three first-half tries.

Liam Wright touched down early on, before Harry Johnson-Holmes responded for the Waratahs.

Filipo Daugunu burst through for Queensland and then it was the influential Tate McDermott's turn to score, while Angus Bell was sent to the sin bin for repeated scrum infringements.

The Reds were less impressive after the interval and Jack Maddocks crossed for a brilliant try to give the Waratahs the lead for the first time.

But Harry Wilson soon went through and, although Taniela Tupou was shown a yellow card for a late tackle, O'Connor kept his nerve with two penalties in the closing stages to settle the clash.

Super Rugby will return in Australia next month, with the Reds and Waratahs going head-to-head in Brisbane on July 3.

The competition, which also includes teams from Japan, South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand, was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Super Rugby is now preparing to make its comeback, albeit under a revamped format.

Super Rugby Aotearoa will start this weekend, with New Zealand sides Chiefs, Highlanders, Blues, Hurricanes and Crusaders set to play each other home and away in front of fans, with no limitations on crowd size.

Australia's teams will follow suit starting from July 3, with the Reds and Waratahs kicking off the action at Suncorp Stadium, followed by the Brumbies going up against the Rebels in Canberra – with a fifth team, Perth Western Force, receiving a first-round bye.

Each team will play each other twice before a two-week play-off round to conclude the season, with a grand final scheduled for September 19.

"Our focus is now back where it should be, getting Super Rugby AU up and running next month and watching our five Australian teams go head-to-head in week after week of Aussie derby action," Rugby Australia [RA] interim CEO Rob Clarke said.

RA also confirmed the matches will take place behind closed doors, pending government advice on allowing spectators.

It is not yet clear whether Super Rugby will resume in South Africa, though it has been reported a domestic competition is in the works.

The Jaguares and Sunwolves, based in Argentina and Japan respectively, do not look set to be involved in any of the competitions, with restrictions on international travel still in place.

Racing 92 have announced the signings of Australia duo Kurtley Beale and Luke Jones

Utility back Beale will leave the Waratahs for a second spell in Europe, having played for Premiership side Wasps in the 2016-17 season.

Beale has won 92 caps for the Wallabies, so the 31-year-old will still be eligible to play for his country.

The playmaker has signed a two-year deal with Top 14 giants Racing and will move to Paris when the Super Rugby season, which has been suspended due to the coronavirus crisis, ends.

Waratahs captain Rob Simmons said of Beale's decision to move on: "That's huge news for us. We're going to miss him.

"A player like that, he's got great experience, he's done a lot for this club, he is the most capped Waratah in history, so to lose someone like that is huge and I suppose this next little bit in this competition, whatever does get off the ground, it will be a good chance for him to send us off."

Flanker Jones will also ply his trade in the French capital next year after spending the past two seasons with the Rebels.

The 29-year-old spent three years with Bordeaux Begles before returning to Melbourne last year.

Racing sporting director Yannick Nyanga said: "We've tried to mix youth and experience in positions where we haven't managed to pull through from our academy.

"We have two premium signings who will bring some experience and their ability."

SANZAAR has rubbished reports that Super Rugby will be scrapped but confirmed there is set to be a "strong domestic focus" when this season resumes.

A trans-Tasman tournament is among the options that have been talked of as an alternative to Super Rugby, which is already due to be reduced to 14 teams next season after the Sunwolves were cut.

SANZAAR, the body that oversees Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship, says teams are likely to face less travel when the current campaign restarts due to restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Yet Andy Marinos, the SANZAAR chief executive, says there has been no agreement reached over a new long-term structure.

Marinos said: "Having spoken with my SANZAAR board members I can confirm that none of the suggested models or structures that have been commented on recently, such as stand-alone Trans-Tasman formats, have been agreed by any of the SANZAAR unions individually or collectively.

"All such reports are merely speculative and have no basis to them.

"This is not to say that we are not having realistic discussions on what may have to eventuate should COVID-19 restrictions continue beyond 2020.

"We are presently looking in detail at various competition formats, but any agreed format will include teams from all four stakeholder national unions.

"Due to uncertainty over what various government restrictions, if any, may look like next year including international travel, no date has been set yet as to when a decision will be made on 2021 and beyond.

"A major consideration is that we also have an obligation to discuss any contingencies with our broadcast partners in the first instance after which we will make public comment."

 

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. 

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.

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