Sir Bill Beaumont on his World Rugby Chairman election race vs Agustin Pichot
By Sky Sports Rugby Union
Last Updated: 23/04/20 10:36pm
Current World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont speaks exclusively to Sky Sports about his re-election bid, the threat his former vice-chairman Agustin Pichot poses and the sport's problems he would look to tackle...
Over the last four years, the head honcho of World Rugby has been former England second row Beaumont, while his No 2 has been former Argentina scrum-half Pichot.
Over the next few weeks or so, the two will be up against each other in the race to be named the next World Rugby chairman for four years. Beaumont having announced his manifesto in January, Pichot - at least publicly - not until this month, with the result of a secret digital ballot due on May 12.
On Thursday, Beaumont joined Will Greenwood and Rupert Cox in a podcast special to chat the upcoming election, while the Sky Sports Rugby duo will be chatting to Pichot on Friday in a superb double-header.
First up, here are the thoughts of the incumbent...
What are Bill Beaumont's manifesto proposals?
"What I'm proposing to do is to try and make the second term far more effective - which I think you can do in your second term. We need to look at a governance review and whether in the modern game, our governance is right.
"I'm very keen on looking at players who for instance may have played for England or New Zealand or whoever, and whether they could go back and play for their country of origin.
"I also want to focus on the shape of the game. I do have concerns about the shape of the game and that it never really seems to alter because after 60 minutes, you get entire front-rows who change, the impacts are probably just as great in the last minute as they were in the first, and I do think we have to look at if it is still a game for all shapes and sizes?
"To me I look at it and think, well unless you're really big, it's very, very hard to play at the top level.
"But whatever we do, it would have to be fact-based. We'd like to see the big unions take this on board and trial it in a high-level competition to see if it would change the shape of the game, and the shape of the players.
"We would also look at competition structures, bringing in global tournaments and an extra Sevens series for women, Tier Two tournaments and also to try and reincarnate the Nations Championship so it gives countries the opportunity of playing against the big boys on a more regular basis."
What are the main manifesto differences between yourself and vice-chairman Pichot? And why Bernard Laporte as a running-mate?
"We [Pichot and Beaumont] worked together for four years. I was delighted when I announced my manifesto in January that I was standing with Bernard Laporte.
"Gus [Pichot] and I are very close to each other on various issues. What I'd like to think is that certainly from a Bill Beaumont point of view, I'm very good at pulling people together.
"I think I've been good at that in the past, and would be good at that in the future, particularly when it would be my last term of four years.
"I look back at things I've done in the game and I think Will (Greenwood) was probably still playing when England were threatened to be thrown out of the Six Nations many years ago, and I went to sort that out, so I think I have the ability to bring people together.
"I think I am a good people person, good at getting the best out of people and that's what I will try and do if I am re-elected by World Rugby.
"We've got to remember that the way the global game is structured at the moment, the majority of the money that comes into World Rugby comes from England and France, and you've got two big entities there who want change and are willing to look at change.
"And that includes re-looking at the Nations Championship. Laporte has been an international coach, a very successful club coach and then a Minister of Sport in France. He has a lot to bring to the table and has a vision for the global game."
Pichot has stepped forward late in his bid for election. Did it take you by surprise?
"Gus [Pichot] told me in Japan [at the World Cup in October/November], where he said: 'Look, I'm probably going to stand against you if you're still standing', so I was prepared for it.
"And certainly, Gus Pichot and Bill Beaumont aren't enemies. People have got to remember that.
"It's a bit like a match where you do your best, you want to win, and hopefully when you do win then you shake hands and move on.
"That's always been my philosophy in life and nothing will change me in that way.
"I don't know how close it was two weeks ago or how close it is now. I'm still pretty confident that the people who supported me then are still supporting me.
"Obviously there is a lot of speculation around in terms of who is voting where, and actually it is only when the results are announced on May 12 that we will all know.
"Am I like a swan gracefully floating?...I'm conscious that it is an election and you have got to speak to people who you know will vote for you, and people that might not.
"And regardless of what happens you've got to get on with people and crack on after, whether you win or lose."
Your thoughts on the World Nations Championship and attempts to bring that in again?
"I think we can look at it where we leave the Six Nations for the time being on their own, we are well aware of its traditions.
"But we can look at a new competition that doesn't impact on the Six Nations but has promotion and relegation into a league.
"You couldn't play it on an annual basis because you have a World Cup every four years and a Lions tour which is not only important to Europe but the southern hemisphere as well.
"But I can see something put together that would encourage teams. There is a will to bring it back to the table, without a doubt.
"You've also got to think of the players. It's easy for us as administrators to sit here and say: 'We'll play here, there and everywhere', so that's why we have the International Players Association, that they are involved in discussions we are having.
"Coronavirus is the biggest challenge that the sport has faced for a long, long time.
"It is going to take a lot to come out of this unscathed for people and unions and I think it will change the way we do our business, how we look at our tours and how we do our schedules.
"Everybody is in it together. There is nobody here in splendid isolation who is sat on plenty of cash reserves."
What are some of the main tasks which await and difficulties of the role?
"The main challenge is that what we want to do is have less crossovers between the international Tests and domestic competitions.
"That is a main driver, to try and get a more even calendar, a different sort of spread.
"Coronavirus has concentrated people's minds and is accelerating how people think about going forward, and there has been some real collaboration between north and south, a spirit of collaboration.
"Each has probably treated each other and looked at one another suspiciously, but I think that's gone now.
"The frustration that you get is that there are so many stakeholders, and trying to pull everybody together whether its clubs, unions, regions, that is the difficulty in a way.
"But on the whole, people are in this game for the right reasons still.
"I have a passion for it, an enjoyment for it and it's something I'd like to still continue to do."
Secret ballots can be unpredictable. Even the most recent 2023 Rugby World Cup announcement went to France when South Africa had been formally backed by World Rugby. Any concerns Pichot could nip in late and take you on the inside?
"Well he wouldn't be the first scrum-half to take me on the inside, that's for sure!
"I'm confident, I'm not blasé or overconfident about it, I realise that people have their prerogative to make their own decisions.
"Obviously I would be very, very disappointed if I didn't win because I feel I still have things to do in the game. And it would be frustrating if I wasn't able to do that.
"I'm quietly confident but also wary it could be very close."