CHRIS FOY: Home nations must put game’s future above self-interest in World

CHRIS FOY: Home nations must put game’s future above self-interest in World Rugby’s chairman election

  • Established rugby nations have been insular in build-up to World Rugby election
  • Agustin Pichot promises vital reform while Bill Beaumont will retain status quo
  • Professional game is in need of fresh impetus, but Six Nations want closed shop

It is a sad, inescapable fact that the main barrier to rugby’s progress lies here; in the home nations and those other centres of the sport’s narrow European landscape – France and Italy.

According to Agustin Pichot, in his illuminating discussion with Sir Clive Woodward, Wales are the only one of the Six Nations unions who have bothered to directly engage with him as he bids to become World Rugby’s next chairman. The game’s most powerful voting block have already made their minds up, evidently. Discussion and debate will not come into it. There is no prospect of a rigorous process. Turkeys do not vote for Christmas.

Instead of being missionaries for their oval-ball code, the RFU and their main continental counterparts are happy to be big fish in a small pond. The northern elite want to retain Sir Bill Beaumont and the status quo while a southern alliance has formed behind Pichot as he bids for the leading role with a bold agenda of reform.

Agustin Pichot has spoken to Sportsmail's Sir Clive Woodward about the World Rugby election

It comes as no surprise that Wales were only Six Nations union to engage with Agustin Pichot

Just once, it would be wonderful if rugby officialdom in these parts could even hint at a progressive attitude, but there is no chance of that. Speaking in the Mail on Sunday, Beaumont claimed it was unfair to deride the Six Nations hierarchy as ‘blockers’, adding: ‘We have to have a global game and the Six Nations appreciate that, of course they do. They are very open at looking at change.’ 

The former England captain is defending his supporters, as he must do, but deep down he will know that the defence is hollow. Those who run the sport in the home nations are fearful of change, as it might lead to a shiny new world order and the threat that they could be left behind. So they shot down Pichot’s Nations League plan last year and now they are seeking to thwart the ex-Argentina skipper’s latest mission.

The established European countries don’t want Six Nations promotion and relegation. They don’t want to open the door to up-start contenders such as Georgia. They have no interest in watering the game’s green shoots in Spain and Germany and elsewhere. They want to stay cosy and closed.

Pichot says he has learned a lot from current chairman and election opponent Bill Beaumont

The established nations are fearful of reform and want Bill Beaumont to maintain status quo 

But the overwhelming truth for rugby is that the current professional model is broken. It needs to be radically altered, not just tweaked and patched-up. The time has come for a bold overhaul. And not in 10 years. Now. 

The game was in trouble before the coronavirus pandemic…

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