Former Wallaby Kearns to run World Cup bid

After winning two World Cups on the field, former Wallaby Phil Kearns will lead Rugby Australia's bid to secure the 2027 tournament.

Phil Kearns has sidelined his Rugby Australia chief executive ambitions to head up Australia's 2027 Rugby World Cup bid in a sign the divide in the code is closing.

The two-time World Cup winner is the new executive director of the bid team, where Australia will have to fend off Russia and possibly bids from the USA and UK to win the right to host for the third time.

Just a few months ago Kearns was a vocal critic of RA, along with a cluster of former Wallabies captains, signing a letter that called for the organisation's leadership to stand aside.

With then chief executive Raelene Castle and chair Cameron Clyne no longer in the picture, Kearns was happy to come on board when approached by new chair Hamish McLennan.

Kearns said it was a vote of confidence in the direction the organisation was now taking as well as improvements on the field in Super Rugby AU.

"Yes, absolutely," the 67-Test hooker said.

"I think over the last three or four weeks in particular there's been a really big shift in confidence in a lot of people that I talk to and I do think it's heading in the right direction.

"Hamish and Rob Clarke (interim CEO) are talking about the right things doing the right things."

Kearns lost out on the CEO role to Castle and was believed to be in the running for the current vacancy but he said that was now off the table.

"I think this will put paid to that aspiration," Kearns said.

"There's a couple of really big roles in Australian rugby at the moment and this is certainly one of them.

"One of the things that swayed me was the importance of this in terms of the future financial health of the game.

"You look at Japan (host in 2019) it generated $7.5 billion economic value for Japan and we will be coming out of a downtown of COVID-19 by then so this could be a really critical boost to our economy and to underpin our game."

Kearns will lead a heavyweight bid team that includes chair Sir Rod Eddington, former prime minister John Howard, former governor-general Sir Peter Cosgrove and International Olympic Committee vice-president John Coates.

With a strong corporate background, his role will include engaging with government at all levels as well as international stakeholders including World Rugby Member Unions.

Kearns is set to start in September on a part-time basis before he moves full-time with the bid process expected to start next February and wrap up in May 2022.