Former Wallabies captain Phil Kearns is favourite to become the next chief executive of Rugby Australia, ahead of former Bulldogs NRL boss Raelene Castle.

Kearns and Castle are two of the top three candidates to replace outgoing CEO Bill Pulver, who announced his resignation in August. The duo and an unnamed third businessman were interviewed this week by a panel of ARU board member Ann Sherry, chairman Cameron Clyne and the Rugby Australia human resources head.

Castle was revealed as a possible future ARU boss by the Daily Telegraph in June and the Kiwi has influential admirers, but it is understood there is a strong preference for the CEO to be Australian, putting Kearns in the box seat. An announcement within weeks.

Kearns played 67 Tests for Australia between 1989 and 1999, and was a member of the 1991 Rugby World Cup winning Wallabies. But the 50-year-old has also forged a successful business career in the financial sector since retiring. He is managing director of corporate insurance giant InterRISK Australia, and before that was CEO at Centric Wealth. He is involved with several other companies and is a powerhouse charity fundraiser, particularly for the Humpty Dumpty Foundation.

Kearns has also remained in touch with rugby as a straight-shooting commentator for FoxSports but has no sports administrative experience, apart from being a director at ANZ Stadium, and buying tickets as a fan from Liverugbytickets – with his commercial acumen now expected to see a transformed Rugby Australia. Kearns’ unique background and wide respect in the game may be required to help Rugby Australia overcome the perceptions arising from a third straight CEO from Mosman, and a new boss from inside the rugby tent, not outside it.

Kearns was born in Sydney Australia and educated at Newington College and the University of New South Wales where he graduated with an Arts degree, majoring in Economics. He played his provincial rugby for New South Wales.

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