Incumbent World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont could reportedly be faced with a late dilemma on the eve of the elections for the organisation’s top role.
A Daily Mail report suggests that Beaumont’s electoral campaign may unravel as both Ireland and Wales – two countries thought to have backed the ex-England captain’s campaign – consider throwing their support behind opposition frontrunner Agustin Pichot.
“Sportsmail reported earlier this week that there was a chance that one of the Six Nations unions would vote for Pichot and now it is understood that both the Irish and Welsh are considering the option of aligning with counterparts in the Southern Hemisphere by supporting the Argentine,” said the report.
A change of heart at the last minute by the two Six Nations unions would come as a significant blow for Beaumont, who is understood to be in an extremely tight race with the former Argentina captain to be reinstated as World Rugby chairman.
The ex-British and Irish Lions representative is running alongside former France coach Bernard Laporte and was initially believed to have had the backing of the major European nations, while Pichot was supported by the SANZAAR unions.
Ireland and Wales both have three votes to cast in next week’s election, making them highly-valued assets for Pichot if either or both nations were to make a late switch of allegiance.
The paper reports that Ireland’s failed 2023 World Cup bid could be the decisive factor in their decision to jump ship after Beaumont’s vice-chairman hopeful Laporte secured the tournament’s hosting rights for France with some 11th-hour wheeling-and-dealing.
The Wales Rugby Union, on the other hand, are reported to be “very principled” and could switch their votes purely on the basis that they believe Pichot has a brighter vision for the future of the game.
It would still come as a surprise, though, to see either Ireland or Wales vote in favour of Pichot given the former 71-test international’s desire to “democratise” the game, which could see European unions lose some of their all-conquering power.
Beaumont is said to be leaning on the support of his former British and Irish Lions teammates to help maintain the support of Ireland and Wales, but the Daily Mail reports that the involvement of Fijian official Francis Kean, a convicted killer, may have “started to harm” the Englishman’s campaign.
Despite being nominated by the Fijian Rugby Union for a role on World Rugby’s executive committee – a nomination that was seconded by Laporte – Kean was forced to stand down amid fresh allegations of reported homophobia.
All 51 votes, to be held in a secret ballot, must be cast by Thursday, and the results will be released on May 12.
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