With World Rugby confirming that Agustin Pichot is the only candidate opposing Bill Beaumont’s bib to become chairman for a second successive term, the Argentine’s candidacy has received a glowing endorsement from Clive Woodward, the 2003 England World Cup-winning coach.  

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Nominations for the May election – which will be held remotely due the coronavirus pandemic – have closed with officials in Dublin confirming the chairman position is a two-horse race between Pichot and Beaumont, who have respectively served together since 2016 as vice-chairman and chairman. 

Bernard Laporte, who is Beaumont’s running mate, is the only candidate for vice-chairman while there are eight nominations for the seven executive committee spots, Mark Alexander (South Africa), Khaled Babbou (Rugby Africa), Bart Campbell (New Zealand), Gareth Davies (Wales), John Jeffrey (Scotland), Ratu Vilikesa Bulewa Francis Kean (Fiji), Bob Latham (USA) and Brett Robinson (Australia). 

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Agustin Pichot features in an extended episode of The Breakdown

But back to Pichot and his backing by Woodward, who has opted to go against his fellow Englishman – his 1980 Grand Slam captain – in outlining that rugby would be better served by having four years with the Argentinian at the helm of the sport.

With Woodward claiming that professional rugby has been exposed as a business built on shifting sands, a sport that hasn’t found the new markets its money men always hoped for, he believe the time is ripe for radical change as bankruptcies and closures of unions and clubs could become commonplace if the pandemic keeps rugby closed for much longer. 

“It could all implode very quickly. I have always found solace in the phrase ‘never waste a crisis’. The chance to rip up the blueprint comes around once in a lifetime, if that. Use it, seize this opportunity. And that is why I was delighted to see that Gus Pichot is standing for the chairmanship of World Rugby next month,” he wrote in his latest Sportsmail column.

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“He has been rugby’s David in a world of Goliaths for a long time and I admire him greatly. Gus has been the little guy taking on seemingly insurmountable odds all his rugby life; the Argentina captain when they clawed their way up the rugby ladder, and now the enlightened administrator, in his trademark white trainers and open-neck shirt, who has always sought the big picture despite the disapproval of some of the blazers who surround him in World Rugby committee meetings.”

Claiming that rugby must start thinking radically and not continue down the same path it is on where the same vested interests keep voting to protect their own interests, Woodward continued: “Rugby nations need to stop protecting little empires and fiefdoms. The old powers need to release their stranglehold on the game which has nearly suffocated it. We need to reboot with much more co-operation and more equable sharing of the World Cup profits and all revenue streams.

“There must be no more poaching of players from other countries, a ruinous process which destroys those rugby nations, and we must consider a global season that is player and media friendly.

“We need equality, diversity, better player-welfare, better thought-out salary caps and rugby needs to establish a wider cultural relevance to engage younger audiences. At this unique moment I believe rugby would benefit from being viewed through the eyes of a leader who is 45, not 68.”

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