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.

Western Force have been handed an unlikely route back into Super Rugby after Rugby Australia announced a new domestic competition that will start next month.

Super Rugby has been suspended in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with travel restrictions making a league featuring teams from five nations unworkable.

Rugby Australia has stepped in to launch a home and away round robin series, beginning on April 3 and featuring its four Super Rugby franchises – the Brumbies, Rebels, Reds and Waratahs – and the Force.

Western Force have competed in Australia's National Rugby Championship since the Perth-based team had their Super Rugby license dissolved in acrimonious circumstances in 2017.

The inclusion of Western Force effectively heralds the end of the Sunwolves' involvement in Super Rugby, with SANZAAR having announced its intention to cut the Japanese franchise from 2021 after the Japanese Rugby Football Union withdrew funding.

Matches will be played behind closed doors in the new competition, for which a fixture list is yet to be finalised.

Rugby Australia expects South Africa and New Zealand to roll out similar domestic competitions, with decisions over how these might relate to Super Rugby and any potential finals series to be discussed in due course.

“Rugby Australia, the four Australian Super Rugby teams and RUPA [Rugby Union Players' Association] are united behind the continuation of Super Rugby in 2020 and have been intensively working towards a competition solution with our SANZAAR partners over the past six days," said Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle.

"There are still some elements to work through as a group, but we are extremely confident that we will deliver a meaningful product for the remainder of the season for fans and broadcasters.

“We have agreed on the principles of proceeding down the path of a domestic solution in Australia which will see our teams compete against each other in a round robin format from April through June, followed by a yet to be determined Finals Series format."

The Brumbies eased past Australian rivals the Waratahs 47-14 in the final game before the Super Rugby hiatus due to coronavirus.

SANZAAR announced the competition would be paused following this weekend's matches amid the COVID-19 outbreak, which continues to disrupt sport around the world.

The Sharks managed to play their game on Saturday, beating South African rivals the Stormers 24-14, while the Jaguares-Highlanders clash was cancelled.

The Brumbies and Waratahs managed to take to the field on Sunday, with the former cruising to victory at GIO Stadium in Canberra.

Tom Wright and Solomone Kata scored two tries apiece to lead the Brumbies to their fourth consecutive victory over the Waratahs, whose slim finals chances were dealt a major blow.

The visiting Waratahs twice led the derby in the first half through captain Rob Simmons and Mark Nawaqanitawase, but on both occasions, they were pegged back by the Brumbies.

A quick-fire Kata double and Cadeyrn Neville's try gave the Brumbies – who lost captain Allan Alaalatoa to an arm injury after half-an-hour – a 21-14 half-time lead.

The Australian Conference-leading Brumbies added another four tries in the second half thanks to Wright, Joe Powell and Tom Banks – Noah Lolesio finishing with four conversions.

The Brumbies cemented their position at the top of the Australian conference with a bonus-point win over the Sunwolves as Wollongong hosted a Super Rugby double-header on Friday.

Fears over the spread of the coronavirus meant the Sunwolves had to relocate their designated home match from Japan to New South Wales.

It proved a routine 47-14 win for the Brumbies, who shrugged off speculation over the future of Dan McKellar after their boss was reportedly approached by Rugby Australia to become the Wallabies' forwards coach.

Ryan Lonergan, Will Miller, Rob Valetini, Toni Pulu, Tevita Kuridrani, Solomone Kata and Joe Powell all touched down for the Brumbies, who have won four of their five games this season.

The Chiefs boast the same record as McKellar's side after they recorded a resounding 51-14 triumph in the second fixture of the Wollongong double.

A six-try second-half blitz transformed what had been an even contest before the break into a one-sided affair, with Brad Weber crossing the whitewash twice. 

The Crusaders kept pace with the Chiefs in the New Zealand conference courtesy of a hard-fought 24-20 victory over the Reds, who have now lost five in six.

The Waratahs belatedly kick-started their Super Rugby campaign with a first win of the season on Friday, claiming a 29-17 win over the Lions in Sydney.

Three defeats in as many matches to begin the season had left Rob Penney's side looking hapless, but they finally found their stride against the Lions.

An emphatic start had the Waratahs in complete control after 17 minutes, as they led 19-0 thanks to tries from Gus Bell, Lachlan Swinton and Jack Dempsey – the latter two coming with Ruben Schoeman in the sin bin for sparking a brawl by shoving a prone opponent in the face.

The Lions responded and gave themselves a lifeline with Marnus Schoeman's first try of the day after Swinton saw yellow for a late no-arms tackle on Elton Jantjies.

However, the Waratahs put the game beyond the visitors in the second period, with James Ramm and Tetera Faulkner going over, the latter sealing victory three minutes from the end.

Andrew Kellaway was in fine form as the Rebels ousted the Highlanders in the day's other contest, the visitors triumphing 28-22 for their first away win versus the Dunedin franchise.

Kellaway, who is back in Australia following a stint in England with the Northampton Saints, went over with runaway tries in either half of an entertaining clash.

The Rebels raced into a 21-0 lead inside the opening 22 minutes, but only finished the first half with a rather modest seven-point cushion.

Kellaway's second try gave the Highlanders too much ground to make up despite Scott Gregory touching down in the 63rd minute and Josh Iaone's late penalty leading to an interesting finish.

However, the match was marred by a horrific leg injury to Highlanders captain James Lentjes, who had to be carried off in the first half following an awkward fall after a ruck.

The Rebels claimed their first Super Rugby win of 2020 as replacement Andrew Kellaway claimed two decisive late tries to earn a 24-10 win over his former club, the Waratahs.

Kellaway, who came on in the first half when Reece Hodge picked up an injury, crossed twice in the final six minutes of a game played in driving rain at AAMI Park.

That enabled the Rebels to record a first triumph over the Waratahs since 2016 and get off the mark for the season following away defeats to the Sunwolves and Brumbies.

Rebels wing Marika Koroibete claimed the only try of the first period, after Matt Toomua and Will Harrison had exchanged penalties, but Harry Johnson-Holmes responded for the Tahs six minutes after the interval.

Harrison's conversion briefly nudged the visitors ahead, but a Toomua penalty put the Rebels back in front and the fly-half split the posts again to make it 14-10 before Kellaway's late scores.

In Friday's other fixture, the Crusaders bounced back from their loss to the Chiefs with a convincing 25-8 win over the Blues at Eden Park.

All four tries in the contest were scored by All Blacks, with Patrick Tuipulotu's early touchdown for the Blues offset by five-pointers from George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga and Jack Goodhue.

Mark Telea scored a hat-trick and earned the Blues a bonus point in a 32-12 win over the Waratahs, while the Chiefs came from behind to defeat reigning Super Rugby champions the Crusaders 25-15.

Blues wing Telea touched down his first try two minutes after Joe Marchant – on loan from Harlequins – got off the mark for the New Zealand franchise early in the second half.

Hoskins Sotutu was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle, although referee AJ Jacobs accidentally brandished his red card initially, and the Waratahs made their numerical advantage count when Mark Nawaqanitawase crossed after the hour mark.

Telea then scored twice in the space of four minutes, the second coming after the 80th minute, to send the Blues above the Crusaders and into second in the New Zealand Conference.

The Crusaders commenced their Super Rugby title defence with a convincing victory over the Waratahs, while the Sunwolves stunned the Rebels on Saturday.

Crowned champions back in July, the Crusaders looked every bit the team to beat in a dominant 43-25 triumph in their opening outing at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.

Will Jordan crossed in the 16th minute before Braydon Ennor and Leicester Fainga'anuku ran in tries to establish a 24-6 half-time advantage for the hosts.

Teenage debutant Mark Nawaqanitawase scored a quickfire double - the second from an intercept - to give the Waratahs fleeting thoughts of a second-half fightback, but Ennor, Jordan and Luke Romano touched down to extinguish those hopes.

Alex Newsome crossed for a late consolation to give the Waratahs another minor boost in their first fixture since Rob Simmons replaced Michael Hooper as captain.

The Sunwolves began their Super Rugby swansong in style by claiming a surprise 36-27 win over the Rebels.

Due to be culled from the competition at the end of the campaign, the Japanese outfit proved they will not limp to the finish line thanks in large part to a blistering start in Fukuoka.

Early tries from Keisuke Moriya and Jaba Bregvadze laid the foundation for the Sunwolves, winners just twice last season, to record their maiden victory over the Rebels.

Anaru Rangi and Dane Haylett-Petty touched down either side of Tautalatasi Tasi to trim the margin to 22-13 at half-time, only for James Dargaville and Garth April to respond with fine tries that put the hosts in a commanding position.

Andrew Kellaway and Andrew Deegan went over in the closing stages to add some respectability to the scoreline but the Rebels failed to ease the pressure on head coach Dave Wessels, who recently admitted he considered quitting last season.

Michael Hooper has relinquished the Waratahs captaincy to experienced lock Rob Simmons for the 2020 Super Rugby season.

Simmons, 30, will lead the team into next weekend's clash with the Crusaders after Hooper gave up the role he took on a full-time basis in 2016.

The Wallabies skipper said the "taxing" nature of his dual leadership positions contributed to the decision.

Kurtley Beale will serve as Simmons' deputy.

"This is something that has been on my mind, in this environment, for a good 18 months," Hooper told reporters. "It hasn't been something that's been on a whim or anything like that.

"There's much more than just leading the team out on the park.

"I went into last season fully committed to the role but also before that having question marks over my position as captain."

However, star flanker Hooper indicated he wanted to continue captaining his country under new Australia head coach Dave Rennie.

"That's a fair way away, but my thoughts and ideas around that have not changed," the 28-year-old said.

"I still do think I have a lot of growing in myself, in my gameplay and my captaincy.

"There are conversations Dave and myself will be having, I'm sure, in the future. But it's also a bit of time off, so I'm dealing with the here and now and what that will look like."

Meanwhile, New Zealand international Patrick Tuipulotu has taken over as sole captain of the Blues after sharing the job with Blake Gibson last season.

The Waratahs have raided Super Rugby rivals the Rebels to sign versatile back Jack Maddocks.

Maddocks, who has seven Australia caps to his name, has agreed to return to New South Wales after spending three seasons in Melbourne.

The 22-year-old, also an Australian Sevens international, will be hoping to force his way into the Wallabies squad in a new era under Dave Rennie after returning to Sydney.

Waratahs head coach Rob Penney said: "First and foremost, Jack is a wonderfully talented player.

"When the opportunity arose to bring him back [to New South Wales] it was one I was really keen on for a number of reasons.

"Jack can play right across the backline, he's got speed, skill and creativity with the ball in hand.

"Bringing him back gives us a range of options in the way we'd like to set up. I'm looking forward to seeing him on the training pitch over the next few weeks as he starts to embed himself into the combinations we've established over pre-season."

Raelene Castle insisted Rugby Australia (RA) did not back down in the Israel Folau case, saying settling was the best financial decision for the governing body.

Folau and RA reached a confidential agreement on Wednesday and issued corresponding apologies after an end to their legal dispute.

The 30-year-old was sacked by RA for what the body said was a "high-level breach" of its code after he posted hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" on Instagram. He had been warned over previous online posts in 2018.

After reports Folau would be paid eight million Australian dollars in damages – something Castle dismissed as "wildly inaccurate" – the RA chief executive defended the decision to settle.

"We didn't back down. We needed to give the game cost certainty," she told a news conference on Thursday.

"The feedback we were getting from our rugby community was that they wanted this matter settled, they want to go into the new year knowing that they can go in with a clean slate and start talking about rugby again instead of talking about this case."

Castle, who insisted she would not resign, said settling was the best decision financially for RA.

"These are ultimately commercial decisions. We had to make a decision that was right for rugby in this country," she said.

"We made the right decision in calling out Israel on his posts and on his inappropriate messaging. That remains the same, we stick to our values that inclusiveness is absolutely core to the key of rugby.

"Ultimately, taking this conversation further into a court situation was not helping the game so we made a decision that gave us cost certainty, that put us in the best financial situation entering the new year in a positive way."

Israel Folau believes he has been "vindicated" after reaching an undisclosed settlement with Rugby Australia (RA) over his sacking and called for new federal laws on religious freedom.

The two parties reached a confidential agreement on Wednesday and issued corresponding apologies after an end to their legal dispute.

Folau was sacked by RA for what the body said was a "high-level breach" of its code after he posted hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" on Instagram. He had been warned over previous online posts in 2018.

A court-ordered mediation in Melbourne went on for two days, with Folau seeking 14million Australian dollars in lost wages and sponsorships.

Having agreed the settlement, which prevents the dispute from moving to a public trial, Folau posted a video on his official website alongside wife Maria.

"We are extremely pleased with the settlement reached today," he said. 

"With today's acknowledgment and apology from Rugby Australia we have been vindicated and can now move on with our lives to focus on our faith and our family. 

"Maria and I would like to thank God for his guidance and strength. Thank you to our supporters for our thoughts and prayers. 

"We started this journey on behalf of all people of faith to protect their rights of freedom of speech and religion. 

"We now look forward to the federal government enacting the legislation necessary to further protect these strengths and rights for all Australians."

Folau, who won 73 international caps, had claimed to have lost out on the chance to play at two World Cups and the opportunity to become Australia captain.

In a fresh controversy last month, Folau's comments linking bushfires that devasted Australia to gay marriage and abortion were slammed as "appallingly insensitive" by the nation's prime minister Scott Morrison.

Israel Folau and Rugby Australia (RA) reached a confidential settlement and issued corresponding apologies as their legal dispute came to an end on Wednesday.

The parties were locked in court-ordered mediation in Melbourne for over two days as former Wallabies star Folau sought to claim 14 million Australian dollars in lost wages and sponsorships.

The 30-year-old, a devout Christian, was sacked in May after sparking outrage with a controversial social media post.

RA terminated his contract for a "high-level breach" after he posted hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" on Instagram.

The ex-Waratahs back, who was also suing NSW Rugby, had been previously warned over his online posts in 2018.

Neither party disclosed the terms of the settlement, which prevents the dispute from moving to a public trial.

"The social media post reflected Mr Folau's genuinely held religious beliefs, and Mr Folau did not intend to harm or offend any person when he uploaded the social media post," read a joint statement.

"Mr Folau wants all Australians to know that he does not condone discrimination of any kind against any person on the grounds of their sexuality and that he shares Rugby Australia's commitment to inclusiveness and diversity.

"Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby do not in any way agree with the content of the social media post. Inclusiveness is one of rugby's core values and it welcomes all people to the game, including all members of the LGBTI community.

"While it was not Rugby Australia's intention, Rugby Australia acknowledges and apologises for any hurt or harm caused to the Folaus.

"Similarly, Mr Folau did not intend to hurt or harm the game of rugby and acknowledges and apologises for any hurt or harm caused.

"Rugby Australia and Mr Folau wish each other well for the future. The parties do not intend to comment further on the terms of their settlement as it is confidential."

Folau, who won 73 international caps, had claimed to have lost out on the chance to play at two World Cups and the opportunity to become Australia captain.

In a fresh controversy last month, Folau's comments linking the bushfires in Australia to gay marriage and abortion were slammed as "appallingly insensitive" by the nation's prime minister Scott Morrison.

Israel Folau is still hopeful of striking an agreement with Rugby Australia (RA) after initial negotiations aimed at resolving his lawsuit came to an end.

Both parties are engaged in a court-ordered private mediation in Melbourne with a view to settling the dispute before a public trial in February.

Folau, who won 73 Australia caps, is claiming 14 million Australian Dollars for lost wages and sponsorships after his sacking in May. 

The 30-year-old says he has lost out on the chance to play at two World Cups and the opportunity to become Australia captain.

Folau, a devout Christian, had his contract terminated by RA for a "high-level breach" after he posted "hell awaits... drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" on Instagram.

The former Waratahs back had been previously warned over his online posts in 2018.

RA is defending the suit, with chief executive Raelene Castle attending the negotiations. 

"It's been a very long day," Folau's solicitor George Haros said after Monday's proceedings.

"Where we are at, is that we were unable to reach an amicable solution with Rugby Australia.

"However, where we stand is that mediation remains on foot. We are still hopeful of reaching an amicable agreement with Rugby Australia.

"We would like to thank the court mediators for the effort and look forward to reconvening in a few days to see if we can strike an agreement."

Discussions are expected to resume as early as Wednesday, with these negotiations coming after RA and Folau failed to reach a settlement in June and an unfair dismissal case began in court in August.

In a fresh controversy last month, Folau's comments linking the bushfires in Australia to gay marriage and abortion were slammed as "appallingly insensitive" by the nation's prime minister Scott Morrison.

Karmichael Hunt is staying with the Waratahs, re-signing with the Super Rugby team for the 2020 season.

Hunt, 33, joined the Waratahs in January and played 12 games before suffering a knee injury.

Waratahs head coach Rob Penney is excited to have Hunt as part of his squad for next season.

"Everyone I've spoken to can't speak highly enough of Karmichael, his attitude, professionalism and experience will be extremely valuable this season," he said in a statement on Monday.

"He's a supremely talented athlete and from all reports, sets the example for our younger guys in the way he goes about his business, looks after his body and prepares for games.

"We've all seen what Karmichael's capable of across what's been an illustrious career, he brought that to the Waratahs in 2019 and will again play a vital role in the midfield next season.

"He's a player I'm really looking forward to working with and I'm pleased he's remaining a Waratah for another season."

Hunt is hoping for an improved campaign from the Waratahs, who finished 2019 with a 6-10 win-loss record as Daryl Gibson resigned as coach in June.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity the Waratahs gave me to play Super Rugby and the care and support provided by my team-mates and everyone within the organisation," Hunt said.

"My family and I are happy in New South Wales and the environment at the Waratahs is a huge part of that, it's a place that's been great for me both professionally and personally.

"We've got a good young squad of guys that I'm looking forward to playing alongside, sharing some of my experiences with and contributing to their development.

"Next season is a new challenge for all of us, it's exciting and I can't wait to get started."

Page 1 of 2
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.