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SPORTS | 21-04-2020 14:19

Ex-Pumas star Pichot seeking 'front foot' World Rugby

Candidate for next World Rugby chairman Agustín Pichot says he plans to modernise the organisation of the sport's governing body and global rugby union should he be elected next month.

World Rugby chairman candidate Agustín Pichot says he plans to modernise the organisation of the sport's governing body and global rugby union should he be elected next month.

Ex-Pumas captain and current vice-chairman Pichot faces competition from incumbent Bill Beaumont, the ex-England skipper who has held the position since 2016, with candidates needing a majority from the 50 votes cast by the governing body's council. The results will be announced on May 12.

"I think we need to modernise it, to be more on the front foot and not be reactive," Pichot told AFP in an interview.

"The leadership has to come with a different mindset. It's not anarchy, it's not saying everything is wrong. I don't believe in that type of management. I do believe in a strong mindset," he added.

The 45-year-old, who retired from playing in 2009, is considered the proponent for change in the face of 68-year-old Beaumont, who hung up his boots more than a decade before the sport turned professional in 1995.

Despite their differences Pichot wants to resume talks frozen in June 2019 about a controversial global competition for countries, and also likes the idea of a tournament for domestic sides which could replace the European Cups.

"I will start the discussions with the Nations Championship blueprint, but I'm not sure if that will be the outcome. It will talk about the emerging nations, more money for the women's game," he said. 

"When discussing this you have to bring the clubs in. If the clubs would like a World Cup or if EPCR (European Cup organisers) would like to join the debate I'm more than happy to have them part of it."

Pichot, who captained the Pumas 30 times, launched his campaign on April 12 with the hashtag #GlobalGame on social media.

The former scrum-half said he plans to implement changes to the sport including pushing for a video game and modernising broadcasts of matches.

"If you look at how the kids engage with the sport and their daily life, I think rugby has lost a lot of ground there," he said.

"I find it very interesting that during a game you have an opportunity to use another product over the product, not only second screen and stats.

"Even with HawkEye technology measuring the offside line, the speed of the players, the impact of the tackles," he added.

Coronavirus 'reset'

Last week Sydney's Daily Telegraph claimed Pichot was behind Argentina pulling out of the race to bid for the 2027 Rugby World Cup, giving Australia a free run as the southern hemisphere candidate in what would be a much-needed financial boost for the country's struggling federation.

But Pichot said the move was made three years ago as Argentina's economy would have been unable to support a tilt at hosting the tournament.

"That decision was taken with the recession in late 2017. It was a nightmare. We decided under the circumstances Argentina couldn't fight with common sense to bid for that," he said.

The coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to rugby across the world at all levels and the 71-time international said it offers a chance for the sport to restart.

"There's going to be a bill of around US$700 million if there are no games played that no one can fix. Whoever tells you that you can fix it with World Rugby that's impossible," he said.

"World Rugby has only 120 million pounds (US$148 million) of reserves so you cannot fill that gap. Every other industry will be hit. This will be a reset for a lot of people."

by Nicholas MC Anally, Agence France-Presse

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