World Rugby have issued a statement following the Fiji Rugby Union’s decision to stand down Fiji union chairman Francis Kean from the World Rugby council, therefore withdrawing his candidature for the World Rugby executive committee. Eight candidates were unveiled last week by World Rugby to contest the election for seven places on its executive committee and Kean was nominated and proposed by the Fiji Rugby Union and seconded by the Federation Francaise de Rugby, whose president Bernard Laporte is seeking to become World Rugby’s new vice-president.

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This sparked negative headlines, with RugbyPass suggesting the election had turned murky because the confirmation that Keen was an executive committee candidate was at odds with chairman Bill Beaumont’s re-election manifesto which promised a wide-ranging governance review look at the “purpose, role, remit and membership of exco, council, general assembly and committees”.

Kean, who was convicted of manslaughter after killing a man in 2006, served just three months of an 18-month sentence after the assault which happened at the wedding of one of Prime Minister’s Frank Bainimarama’s daughters a month after Bainimarama seized power in a military coup. 

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World Rugby investigate Fiji rugby chairman Francis Kean

Kean, who is also Bainimarama’s brother-in-law, since made his way along the corridors of power in the rugby world, but his latest alliance raised eyebrows and action has now been taken following fresh allegations published in the UK Sunday Times. In a statement, World Rugby explained: “World Rugby takes all allegations of behaviour that is not in keeping with the sport’s strong and inclusive values and bye-laws extremely seriously. 

“While it is important to stress that any allegations must be validated, following dialogue with World Rugby, the Fiji Rugby Union recognises the seriousness of the allegations made and the need for them to be fully investigated, and that it is in the best interests of the sport that Kean steps down from the council and his executive committee candidature be withdrawn.

“The Fiji Rugby Union have confirmed that their seat on the World Rugby Council will be filled by union CEO John O’Connor. There are now seven nominations for seven seats on the World Rugby executive committee, which will be confirmed at the 2020 annual meeting of the World Rugby Council, held by teleconference on May 12.”

It was alleged by the Sunday Times that Kean used homophobic language during his time in charge of Fiji’s prison service since 2016, and Amnesty International twice criticised Kean’s conduct in that role. They is behaviour which goes against rugby’s inclusive vales where its bye-laws don’t tolerate any abusive or discriminatory carry-on.

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