Pichot pitched himself as the more progressive candidate, pledging to re-launch the Nations Championship. Beaumont also added the competition to his platform after ruling out promotion and relegation, which caused it to fall over last year.
Former Wallabies flanker and Rugby Australia director Brett Robinson, who won a second term on the powerful World Rugby Executive Committee in the same elections, said it was up to Beaumont to prove his leadership partnership with Laporte could deliver globally.
This vote showed that a large proportion of the rugby world really is unhappy about what’s happened.
Australian World Rugby executive committee member Brett Robinson
“We have very good relationships with Bill and the northern countries. The frustration we’ve made clear to Bill over the past 12 to 18 months is the pace of change and the need to shift it faster than we were able to, from laws to competition models and other issues,” Robinson said.
“This vote showed that a large proportion of the rugby world really is unhappy about what’s happened. I think he acknowledges that and acknowledges the need for him to move faster and be open to change.
“We made our position clear to Bill on which way we were going and why, but equally we said that if we was successful we would be doing everything we could to help with his agenda and changing the game.”
Robinson’s position was echoed by Rugby Australia’s interim executive chairman Paul McLean, and New Zealand Rugby chairman Brett Impey.
“We are disappointed for Gus Pichot, who had a strong and progressive vision for the game with an emphasis on global alignment and governance reform.
“With Rugby facing its greatest test in the current COVID-19 pandemic it is essential for the game to act in a unified way to deliver a sustainable future that ensures that all nations have the opportunity to grow and contribute to the ongoing success of the sport.”
Impey said: “There is still a level of governance reform that is overdue, and it would be good to see the courage taken to make the decisions needed to ensure the continued sustainability and success of rugby globally — not just for a limited number of unions and regions.”
Also included in Beaumont’s and Laporte’s campaign platform was another look at Regulation 8, which governs Test eligibility. Australia and New Zealand supported a recent push to allow tier one players whose Test careers were over to play Test rugby for a tier two nation for which they might also be eligible. The push failed, but Beaumont has promised to try again.
He has also promised a “wide-ranging governance review” to support a federation that “better serves the game, not one that is seen to only support the ‘old guard'”.
The pair have work to do to convince the southern hemisphere and other emerging nations that a World Rugby led by French and English power brokers will act in the interests of all of the game’s members.
The French and English clubs were among the agitators against the Nations Championship last year, as well as the national unions of Scotland and Italy, who were worried about their capacity to stay in the top division of the proposed league.
Japan and Fiji would be the most likely nations to join the top division, a huge shift in the game’s attitude towards the so-called tier two or ’emerging’ countries. Beaumont promised to have the competition ready to go after the 2023 World Cup.
The organisation is likely to have more success with cementing a global calendar in the interim, helped, perversely, by the financial chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Northern hemisphere club competitions, where private ownership is widespread, are beginning to feel the pinch.
It was hard work getting the north to agree to moving the June Test window to July, which allowed Super Rugby to continue uninterrupted, but further reform to the Six Nations calendar is also on the table.
“I don’t think anyone would agree that the cobbled-together structure of our international game makes sense,” Robinson said.
“It’s history from when we turned professional in 1995, 1996, that’s dictating what it looks like and we have never stepped back and said ‘what would be the ideal structure’.
“The flow-on effect of that is that the July and November windows were historical, but not sensible. It’s how we get adjustment there that will be key.”
Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.