Former Wallabies flanker Phil Waugh says collaboration is the key to helping Australian rugby grow.
A group of ex-Test players, including Brett Papworth, Simon Poidevin and Nick Farr-Jones, have been critical of the governing body over its contribution, or perceived lack thereof, to grassroots rugby, co-signing a letter to the ARU board about the matter this week.
The Sydney Morning Herald also reported on Friday morning that Queensland and NSW clubs were planning a breakaway competition that would attempt to rival the NRC.
Waugh, who played 79 Tests for the Wallabies, said that both groups had the same end goal, but needed to bring themselves in line with each other..
“I think it's all about collaborating,” he said.
“I genuinely think that everyone is on the same page, everyone wants to see rugby do well and the more that everyone can work together the stronger rugby will be.
“Club rugby's a very, very important to the future of Australian rugby and I'm sure that the ARU recognise that.
While he was full of praise for the club rugby system, Waugh said the improvements in the NRC in three seasons had shown its potential.
“Grassroots rugby is so important to the game and I grew up playing for the Narrabeen tigers when I was four and I ball boyed for Warringah and played all my junior rugby on the Northern beaches and obviously involved at Sydney University in club rugby,” he said.
“There'll always be a place for club rugby and it's the most important place where we get kids playing the game that want to be the next Wallabies.
“I think that this Buildcorp NRC has been a great tournament in terms of exposing players and the quality of rugby and it's very similar to New Zealand's National Provincial Competition and South Africa’s Currie Cup.
“We're starting to see that sort of content be produced from the quality.”
Waugh was speaking at the announcement of the NRC’s Phil Waugh medal on Friday, which will be given to the man of the match in Saturday’s NRC final.
“The Buildcorp NRC is a great way for players to develop and also for Super Rugby players to play with up and coming.
“I’m absolutely flattered and honoured to be recognised in this way by the ARU.”
NSW Country Eagles captain Paddy Ryan paid tribute to Waugh’s rugby legacy at the announcement.
“Waughy got me to the Tahs, I reckon he's a pretty good bloke,” he said.
“He's obviously one of the great sevens to have played for Australia, great backrowers.
“He was a very tough player, always put the team first.
“He was a great leader, so I think it's fitting that he gets recognised with an award, Man of the Match of the NRC final is great.."