International Rugby
Stage set for IRB chairman vote
ESPNscrum Staff
December 10, 2011
IRB vice chairman Bill Beaumont looks on, IRB General Assembly, Grand Hotel Convention Centre, Auckland, New Zealand, October 17, 2011
Former England and Lions international Bill Beaumont insists he has the support to become the new IRB chairman © Getty Images

The battle to be the sport's most powerful figure will resume in Los Angeles on Monday with Bernard Lapasset and Bill Beaumont set to go head-to-head for the position of International Rugby Board chairman.

The election to become rugby's top administrator was due to have taken place in Auckland ahead of the Rugby World Cup Final in October but was postponed amid reports of acrimony within the IRB Council and fears it would overshadow the sport's showpiece event. After some sustained lobbying, Lapasset, who is hoping for a second term having held the position since 2007, is thought to hold a narrow advantage over current vice-chairman Beaumont with 26 delegates on the Council representing the world game set to decide the contest.

With both candidates for the chairmanship coming from Europe, the vote is not expected to be split along the north-south divide but on policy and which man delivers the best leadership for the IRB.

Lapasset has ambitions of becoming a member of the International Olympic Committee, having been instrumental in rugby's successful bid for a place in the 2016 Rio Games, which has led to increased funding for smaller nations. Lapasset, who speaks three languages, has focused his policies on building upon that Olympic effect, by expanding rugby's reach and growing the game in new areas.

"This is not about a battle between two men, but a different vision of rugby," insisted Lapasset, who has expressed his desire to expand the game in emerging nations in Asia and the Americas in particular.

Beaumont's focus is top down, strengthening the core Tier One unions who generate the majority of the money. He is the quintessential rugby man against the rugby politician. If Beaumont loses, he faces being voted off the IRB executive. Beaumont could stand again as vice-chairman but there are already two candidates for that role that will also be decided on Monday, in Graham Mourie from New Zealand and Oregon Hoskins from South Africa.

Beaumont is excitedly anticipating the vote. "I am excited like before you kick off," Beaumont said yesterday. "If you don't have a bit of apprehension, you don't play your best. I think I can make a difference. There are challenges, big challenges, to be faced and it is not going to be an easy ride, but by getting together, communicating, we can improve the game.

"And hopefully by people seeing who I am, they will back me as a fair person, open, honest and decent. That's the way I am. I can't change that. I have dedicated a lot of my life to rugby because I have been lucky to have been able to play it at the highest level. Once you have done that you have been very fortunate. I want to try and put something back into the game."

The eight founder member unions - Australia, England, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and Wales - boast 16 of the 26 votes. Beaumont is thought to have strong backing from the Home Unions and has reportedly attracted the support of both Australia and New Zealand with a promise to reform the IRB's commercial model. Lapasset's power base is expected to come from South Africa, France and Italy, but mainly the unions who would benefit more from global expansion.

Much of the IRB's policies for the next decade are already mapped out. The IRB is already committed to a review of World Cup finances, as called for by New Zealand and Australia during the last tournament, and there is a 10-year tours agreement in place. The venues for the 2015 and 2019 World Cups have also already been decided with England and Japan set to stage those tournaments.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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