MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Rugby Australia (RA) chairman Cameron Clyne will not seek re-election at the governing body's annual general meeting in March and will step down from his role, RA said on Monday.
The decision comes amid calls for change in the governing body in the wake of Australia's quarter-final exit to England at the World Cup in Japan.
Former banker Clyne has served as chairman since January 2016, a period which has seen the Wallabies decline as a power in world rugby.
He also endorsed the unpopular move to axe Perth-based team Western Force from Super Rugby in 2017, reducing Australia's complement in the mainly southern hemisphere competition from five sides to four.
RA's move in April to tear up Wallabies fullback Israel Folau's contract for posting a meme on social media that said hell awaited "homosexuals" and other groups also proved polarising.
Clyne made note of the criticism that has dogged his leadership in a statement released by RA.
"Notwithstanding the very painful decision to remove the Western Force from the Super Rugby competition and the mixed results of the Wallabies in recent years, there have been a number of achievements and positive advancements right across the game over the past four years," he said.
"Female participation in Rugby has tripled, we've seen enormous growth in sevens participation on the back of the gold medal success of our women's team, and against global trends in participation we have achieved growth in traditional XV's rugby in several states and territories.
"Unfortunately, recently, much of the focus of the media has been directed at myself, which has overshadowed a lot of great work that has been done and continues to be done at the community level.
"It is hoped that with my resignation, the attention can return to where it rightfully should be, which is on the field and that this positive work will be highlighted."
Clyne said he would spend his remaining months overseeing the delivery of a new broadcast deal, the appointment of a new Wallabies coach in the wake of Michael Cheika's resignation and RA's defence in relation to a legal challenge launched by Folau over his termination.
Clyne added that he aimed to make a "seamless transition" from the role with a replacement in place by RA's annual general meeting.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Ken Ferris)