The Six Nations claim they stand united in their support for Sir Bill Beaumont’s re-election as chairman of World Rugby.
The reaffirmation of their position on the eve of the secret ballot followed reports that one of the Six was on the verge of breaking ranks to back the challenger, former Argentina and Bristol scrum half Gus Pichot.
“The Six Nations are four-square behind the chairman being re-elected,’’ a senior international figure told The Rugby Paper. “Nothing that happened in the last week or so has changed that.
“There’s always the possibility of someone saying one thing and doing another. That’s happened often enough in days gone by but for it to happen again at this late stage would be very unlikely.’’
Rugby elections at the highest level have been notorious for the horse-trading behind last-minute deployment of votes but Beaumont will be relieved to learn that his European power base appears to have remained intact despite the scandal which toppled one of his supporters.
It forced Fijian rugby president Francis Kean to resign over allegations of homophobia. Convicted of manslaughter in 2007, he had been nominated for a place on World Rugby’s executive committee.
Sources in the UK and France say they expect Beaumont to win every vote held by the big Six which amount to 18 out of a global total of 51. That would leave him needing eight more for a majority and Europe’s power brokers predict that Beaumont’s running mate, French president Bernard Laporte, will have played a decisive role in winning votes beyond the Six Nations.
Historically, Rugby Europe, the body representing 47 nations across the continent, have aligned themselves with France. That explains why Laporte expects Georgia and Romania to vote for the Anglo-French ticket despite the fact that they have most to gain from Pichot’s promise to create a pathway for both into the Six Nations.
Romania seconded Laporte’s proposal as vice-chairman. Rugby Europe president Octavian Morariu, son of arguably Romanian rugby’s most famous figure, Viorel Morariu, has publicly pledged his support for the Beaumont-Laporte alliance while challenging them to introduce promotion and relegation to and from the Six Nations.
Italy, the country with most to lose from such a system, have already nailed their colours to Beaumont’s mast, promising him all three votes at their disposal. President Alfredo Gavazzi said: “Bill Beaumont has given an unbelievable contribution to the game during his first term.’’
Pichot’s supporters believe their man could still come through on the rails and pip Beaumont in a photo-finish. Sir Clive Woodward’s enthusiastic championing of the Argentinian’s candidacy as an unofficial campaign manager will have given Pichot’s run renewed credibility.
Even with all 12 votes from the southern hemisphere’s big four – South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and his native Argentina – Pichot knows he is liable to come up short. One international figure rejects the theory that the result will be too close for Beaumont’s comfort and predicts he will make it with five votes to spare.
Surprisingly, World Rugby do not plan to announce the result until May 12, more than a fortnight after voting closed. Expect more than a few exit polls between now and then.