Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill has strenuously denied claims the Wallabies winger Lote Tuqiri was sacked to avoid the ARU having to honour the last three years of the his lucrative contract. While Tuqiri has not played a part in any of Australia's four Tests in 2009, the 29-year-old signed a five-year extension under O'Neill's predecessor, Gary Flowers, in 2007. O'Neill also refuted suggestions he had a vendetta against the dual international, saying: "That's ridiculous, untrue and anyone who suggests that should think again."
He added: "His contract has been terminated for proper reasons. "Money wasn't part of our consideration. Clearly the decision to terminate a contract is one that requires a lot of consideration. We gave that consideration and reached a conclusion with our eyes wide open." There is plenty of previous between O'Neill and the Fijian-born flyer, with the ARU chief confirming he had issued Tuqiri with a warning letter prior to the World Cup when the winger failed to report to training after a night out.
"It's in the public arena that back in Aug 2007 Lote was provided with a letter from me which indicated that due to a couple of offences at the time, he was on a warning that further breaches would not be tolerated." However, O'Neill chose to side-step disclosing further details on the ARU's rationale for sacking Tuqiri, citing the possibility of imminent legal proceedings. "We are not going into the reasons for the termination. There is the threat of legal proceedings over the decision."