Rugby Union

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Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham says drama not a distraction as Michael Jones fights

ARU boss Bill Pulver has thrown his weight behind the ACT Brumbies' finances, adamant the club can afford any payout if it parts ways with chief executive Michael Jones but adding the governing body is willing to step in and offer help if needed.

Brumbies boss Jones called Canberra club rugby powerbrokers together on Wednesday night as he continued the fight to keep his job for the long term.

Jones, Brumbies board member Peter Callaughan and club presidents met for more than three hours as speculation grew there could be a move to make changes to the ACT rugby board of directors.

It came as Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham declared his side wouldn't be distracted by off-field issues and Pulver reaffirmed support for the organisation should the drama get ugly.

Asked if the Brumbies would have the financial capacity to foot the bill for any payout, Pulver said: "Yes they do."

Jones returned to work on Wednesday after gaining an injunction against the Brumbies board to return to his role after being stood down on Monday night.


Jones was keen for the Brumbies to be given space by the media to allow them to deal with internal issues after a very public falling out over the recent days.

He addressed staff in the morning before a wide-ranging meeting with Canberra clubs — who hold the majority of voting power in the boardroom — to discuss the options on the table.

Some clubs are keen to avoid getting caught up in issues they don't have all the information on.

The Brumbies would have to call for an extraordinary general meeting to make any changes to the board if the clubs — who have 14 votes on major decisions — deemed it necessary.

Jones will return to court on Tuesday in the next step of legal proceedings, but there is division in Brumbies back-room ranks that makes it difficult for the club to push into the future.

Jones was set to seek out Pulver and ACT chief minister Andrew Barr, while an ARU board meeting on Tuesday was updated on the latest of the Brumbies' saga.

Larkham gathered his team earlier this week to inform them of the board's decision to stand down Jones, and then tell them the decision had been reversed temporarily in the ACT Supreme Court.

It has been an unwanted diversion from the team's bid to secure a win in South Africa when it plays the Free State Cheetahs on Sunday morning (AEDT).

"Everything that's happening is an ongoing issue that looks like it's going to take a long time to resolve, it hasn't been a distraction for us at all," Larkham said.

"The team has been focused on the disappointment of losing last week and we're extremely determined to get a different result this week.

"It's just as easy here than it is back home because our only focus is on improving every week. Internally amongst the team, the culture is very strong and some things have happened while we've been over in Africa, it's hard to comment on any of it at the moment."

Jones' interview on radio last weekend was the trigger for the board to stand him down and appoint an interim chief executive.

Jones was told to hand over his keys to Brumbies headquarters, but in a dramatic twist he filed an injunction less than 24 hours later and was back at his desk by 9am Wednesday.

Pulver was in Canberra on Monday at the request of Brumbies chairman Robert Kennedy and said the ARU would step in to help the club financially if required.

The Brumbies board, players, staff and coaches have all been told not to comment for fear of legal ramifications.

The Brumbies lost $1.68 million last year and the cash reserves from the sale of its Griffith headquarters has almost been depleted.

The ongoing Australian Federal Police investigation into transactions of the sale between 2009 and 2013 have been the source of angst within the organisation and with stakeholders.

Pulver said the ARU was working on "spot fires" at all Australian clubs, but the focus has been turned on to the Brumbies.

"That [the Brumbies going bust] is not going to happen in a nutshell. The Brumbies are in a solid financial shape," Pulver said on Rugby 360.

"Were there to be any issues down in Canberra at all we would obviously do anything we can to help out.

"The Brumbies are a very important part of the Australian rugby landscape. They're going to be there for a long, long time to come and we'll do whatever we can to support them."

Meanwhile, Larkham is set to make several changes to his side to play the Cheetahs.

Henry Speight (face injury), Josh Mann-Rea (suspension) and Jarrad Butler (knee) have been ruled out while Lausii Taliauli, Robbie Abel and Ita Vaea have been flown in as reinforcements.

Robbie Coleman is in contention for his first start of the year while Abel is poised to win his first Super Rugby cap from the bench.