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The cost of Folau to Rugby Australia’s bottom line

The Herald has learned the full Folau settlement – which was approximately $4m but with 50 per cent paid by NSW Rugby – is included in “player costs”, despite being paid in instalments. It is also listed elsewhere as a part of the $20 million RA owe to creditors.

The cost of the Folau affair is also a big chunk of the spike in “corporate costs”, due to legal fees and the cost of RA hiring of external PR firm Bastion Reputation Management, founded by former AFL and National Australia Bank head of communications Brian Walsh, during the crisis.

Former Wallabies fullback Israel Folau.

Former Wallabies fullback Israel Folau. Credit:Getty Images

Also included in the corporate costs was the recruitment of Scott Johnson as director of rugby on an estimated salary of $650,000 a year – on top of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika in his last year in charge – and the 2018 additions of senior executives Cameron Murray and Simon Rabbitt.

Along with Folau’s payout, the $3.7 million hike in “player payments and RUPA” costs also includes the first year of Michael Hooper’s million-dollar-a-year contract, as well as the cost of getting halfback Nic White back from the UK.

RA announced a $9.4 million loss after the AGM in late March, which is comparable to that in other World Cup years such as 2015 ($9.8 million loss) and 2011 ($10.6 million deficit).

Meanwhile, the Waratahs and others teams across the country will return to training for the first time on Tuesday in smaller groups since Super Rugby came to a standstill in mid-March.

Players and staff members were briefed on Monday on a Zoom call by RA chief medical officer Warren McDonald about the biosecurity measures they need to adhere to in the coming weeks in preparation for a five-team domestic competition played across 12 weeks that organisers hope can begin on July 4.

Just after 7am on Tuesday, Waratahs players will begin filing through the team’s headquarters at Daceyville in groups of no more than nine people, with one coach assigned to each pod at any one time. Four groups are expected to be whisked in and out in the space of four hours.

While contact training is not allowed just yet, players will work on conditioning and skills on the oval and gym. Groups won’t be strictly split up between forwards and backs.

The mantra of the first stage of training is ‘get in, train, get out’, while facilities will have to be cleaned throughout the day as groups file through.

Head coach Rob Penney is set to depart New Zealand on Sunday to link up with the squad once he has isolated for 14 days.

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“They’re not big asks for ourselves to be able to get back into work and get rugby on the field,” said Waratahs general manager Tim Rapp.

McDonald said a positive COVID-19 test would not necessarily extinguish hope of getting the competition up and running but stressed players needed to be vigilant.

Flu shots are being encouraged by RA but are not mandatory in order for a player to take the field.

“It’s impossible to completely eliminate risk but we can minimise it to the best of our ability,” McDonald said. “If we did have a player or individual who tested positive then our management will be guided by the public health guidelines. Each case will be managed individually and that will involve me and the team doctor.”

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