John O'Neill talking with Wallabies coach Robbie Deans in Auckland in August.

John O'Neill talking with Wallabies coach Robbie Deans in Auckland in August. Photo: Getty Images

Managing director and CEO of the Australian Rugby Union, John O'Neill, will stand down from his post on October 31. O'Neill had originally to retire towards the end of 2013 after the tour to Australia by the British and Irish Lions tour, but has decided to bring his departure forward.

The announcement was made by ARU Chairman Michael Hawker this morning.

Hawker praised O'Neill's long-standing commitment to Australian Rugby but says his decision allows him to concentrate on business commitments outside of rugby as chairman of casino company Echo Entertainment.

“John’s workload beyond Rugby has recently grown significantly, and unexpectedly, through his chairmanship of Echo Entertainment,” Hawker said.

“John had previously indicated he was standing down when his contract ended next year, so the timing of his resignation is now logical for both him and the ARU.

“Under his leadership, a Governance review into the game has been initiated; planning for the 2013 Lions Tour is well underway; the Qantas Wallabies have improved from fifth in the world when John returned to the game in 2007 to now second behind the All Blacks; participation levels are at an all-time high; the ARU has strengthened its financial position; we have increased influence at the International Rugby Board; Rugby has been further expanded with a fifth team in Melbourne; and the new Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship has been launched with the inclusion of Argentina, refreshing the Southern Hemisphere Test competition.

“John has been a great servant of Rugby in Australia over two decades and has achieved the key objectives of a five-year strategic plan since re-joining the ARU in 2007.

“John’s resignation enables the Board to put in place new leadership to build on that platform and to drive our substantial agenda over the next five years, while enabling John to focus on his broader business interests.”

O'Neill was CEO of the ARU from 1995 to 2003 and stepped down after successfully organising the 2003 World Cup. He spent three years at the head of Football Federation Australian before returning to the ARU in 2007.

In both his tenure's at the ARU, O'Neill has overseen great change.

In 1995, rugby shedded its amateur cloak and embraced the professional era. In 2011, he oversaw the expansion of Australia's Super rugby presence with the inclusion of the Melbourne Rebels.

O'Neill has been a strong supporter of Wallabies coach Robbie Deans and played a pivotal role in luring the Cantabrian from Christchurch to Sydney.

ARU deputy CEO, Matt Carroll, will be replace O'Neill in a caretaker capacity while a worldwide search is undertaken to find a permanent replacement.

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