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'We voted for Gus Pichot': New Zealand Rugby hits out at Six Nations rivals, demands change at World Rugby

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By Liam Napier, NZ Herald

New Zealand Rugby has unequivocally outlined its voting stance for the World Rugby chairman elections by putting the boot into the inherent Six Nations’ self-interest and stating the need for major global reforms.


Secret voting for the World Rugby chairman role contested by incumbent Bill Beaumont and Argentina’s Agustin Pichot ceases on Friday (NZT) but a winner will not be declared until May 12.

The Herald has previously reported that the Six Nations will fall in behind Beaumont, with Sanzaar instead favouring Pichot’s vision for long-overdue change, leaving a north versus south standoff and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama with a potentially casting say.

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Following NZ Rugby’s annual general meeting, chairman Brent Impey bluntly outlined exactly why New Zealand and its Southern Hemisphere allies have had enough of the status quo.

“Yes we have voted and we voted for Gus Pichot,” Impey said. “We understand it’s very close.

“We have felt dissatisfaction over the lack of progress over the last few years over a range of issues, whether they be the Nations Championship, emerging nations, issues around eligibility, rule changes.

“While we’ve got great respect for Bill Beaumont as an individual, this has become an issue where there has been a lot of self-protection from existing players versus those of us, particularly the Sanzaar nations, who want to see the game grow.


“That’s why we have supported him.

“If you look back over many years World Rugby has been very frustrating from a New Zealand perspective.”

Impey went further by singling out Ireland, Scotland and Wales for blockading attempts to launch the touted 12-team Nations Championship, despite the promise of $6.6 billion investment over the first 12 years.

“That was the straw that said this organisation [World Rugby] needs major reform.


“What became very clear was that a number of countries in the Six Nations – I’m primarily talking about the Celtic countries and Italy – were not prepared to be open to promotion relegation and moving away from their protected competition.

“On this side of the equator, we were open to the inclusion of the likes of Japan and Fiji and other emerging markets longer term.”

Impey stressed NZ Rugby had previously tried to push for eligibility changes – ironically now being championed by Beaumont in order to secure Samoa’s vote – that would allow the likes of Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua to represent their Pacific heritage after being captured by tier-one nations.

Using NZ Rugby as an example, Impey said while his organisation is not there yet constitutional changes had been made to include greater M?ori and female representation on New Zealand’s board with Jennifer Kerr joining Dr Farah Palmer.

“World Rugby simply doesn’t represent anything like that.”

On the field, NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson faced Pichot several times in England when their rival Cambridge and Richmond teams squared off.

“He was a typical little stroppy Latin halfback,” Robinson said. “He was a great guy, a lot of fun off the field and a pain on it. We’ve become good friends over the course of the last five years.

“He makes a difference in every setting he’s in. He’s very passionate; he cares deeply about all levels of the game. He’s innovative. He’s entrepreneurial. He’s someone I know, if he is successful, would invest every minute into doing his absolute best for the good of the game.”

As the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to cripple the code Robinson revealed World Rugby has, meanwhile, offered to advance the £7.5 million (NZD $15.2m) payment made to all tier-one nations in a typical four-year cycle.

NZ Rugby is yet to decide whether to access that support now, rather than wait, but after posting a $7.4m loss for 2019 and projecting a 70 per cent decline in revenue this year, Robinson indicated that payment would help plug the bleeding, somewhat.

“It is what it is around World Rugby they’ve got limitations themselves. We’re certainly grateful for all the support we can get from any avenue.

“In terms of the gaps we have we need to do more in terms of looking to raise more revenue and reduce costs where possible.

“Our team is modeling when we might be looking at engaging in that support. All unions will be in slightly different positions. Those in the north this pandemic has hit them at a stage where they are coming into their summer so they might not be as drastically hit as we have been.

“Certainly in the Southern Hemisphere I know this is impacting very seriously so there’s immediate conversations around that support now.”

By Liam Napier, NZ Herald


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