Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle has swatted away criticism of broadcast deal negotiations, backing outgoing chairman Cameron Clyne's involvement and expecting Fox Sports to be a part of the tender process.
Castle was in Canberra on Wednesday to launch the Super W season, which starts this weekend, but talk quickly turned to the dark television rights clouds hovering over the game.
Rugby Australia is close to finalising a deal with Sydney club rugby to pitch a club-to-national level package to broadcast suitors in the coming weeks.
Clyne has been appointed to a Rugby Australia broadcast subcommittee to oversee the process. Castle and board members Pip Marlow and John Wilson will join Clyne, who will step down in March.
Clyne's involvement has attracted criticism from former ARU boss John O'Neill, who labelled the board "lame ducks" this week.
Asked if the criticism was warranted, Castle said: "I don't think so.
"...This is a decision about generating the most financially beneficial outcome we can for the game, increasing access and making sure we can maximise any other commercial investment opportunities.
"I'm not sure anyone would have a perspective that trying to deliver on any of those things that would be any different."
Castle said she was "confident and comfortable" with the appointed subcommittee, which will take charge of the tender process.
Rugby Australia has been trying to acquire the television rights to the Sydney premier competition, which is owned by Club Rugby TV, to put together a whole-of-game package for broadcasters.
The decision to go to the market has angered Fox Sports, which has bankrolled Australian rugby since it turned professional in 1996.
Australian Super Rugby franchises have been nervously waiting to see the fallout from the decision to go to market, but Castle is confident it will benefit all.
"We went through a negotiation process [with Fox Sports] through their exclusive negotiating period. Unfortunately we couldn't get a place we were both comfortable with so we're now in tender," Castle said.
"We would expect that as a market process, they'll step into that process.
"We've put together what we believe is the strongest package of rights and aligned package of rights than we've ever been able to do with a whole rugby solution.
"That's attracted some real interest from the market and we're looking to have tender documents out by the end of the week."
Off-field dramas have hurt the game in recent years and the ACT Brumbies are one of the teams suffering from a fan downturn.
They have averaged crowds of just 7267 in their first two games of the year, but are hopeful those numbers will turn for a clash against the Otago Highlanders on Saturday night.
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar will name his team on Thursday, with Tom Cusack (concussion) expected to be ruled out.
"I think everyone has this really negative take ... what we know about the Brumbies is they are delivering games," Castle said.
"We've seen some growth in viewership figures compared to the same games last year, about a 10 or 15 per cent growth. We know there is some work to do. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen by engaging with them."
SUPER RUGBY ROUND THREE
Saturday: ACT Brumbies v Otago Highlanders at Canberra Stadium, 7.15pm.
Super W: ACT Brumbies v Rugby WA at Canberra Stadium, 4.35pm.