ARU WESTERN FORCE PRESS CONFERENCE
Departing Australian Rugby Union chief executive Bill Pulver says it's time for a clean slate following the prolonged decision to axe the Western Force from the Super Rugby competition.
Pulver joined the Force as a casualty of the drawn-out saga, announcing that he would step down as soon as a replacement could be found.
His five-year term was set to end in February and Pulver admitted earlier this year he would not be seeking re-appointment however he decided to bring the tenure to an early close.
Force chief executive Mark Sinderberry and ex-Waratahs boss Greg Harris have emerged as two possible replacements.
"Sport is a difficult business and we've had a really difficult year and the issues surrounding Super Rugby have galvanised my thoughts on my tenure," Pulver said at a press conference on Friday.
"It's a good time for a renewed leadership, a clean state, a new generation of rugby.
"It's the right time for a change, a period of renewal, a fresh set of eyes and ears in order to take us on to the next generation."
ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said Pulver had been unfairly targeted by critics of the decision to cut a side and the protracted process, with the body announcing April it would make a call on whether the Force or Melbourne Rebels would be cut "within 48 to 72 hours".
"It's fashionable to blame Bill for everything that goes wrong in Australian Rugby," said Clyne.
"Bill has copped an incredible amount of unfair personal criticism ... but has never shirked from that.
"He has always represented the game extremely well and he should be very proud of that and the service he's given the game."
Clyne said Pulver had been hamstrung by the multiple layers of governance in the game and that it was sad that rugby "turns on its own" more than any other sport.
The chairman said Pulver had made significant advancements during his time in the role.
"I think the advancements in the game under Bill's watch have been extraordinary.
"We have junior participation up for the first time in 15 years, we have a very successful sevens program developing."