The result for the World Rugby chairmanship could reportedly be announced as early as this weekend, with Japan and Rugby Africa holding key votes.
As voting closed on Thursday night, the Daily Telegraph reported that incumbent Bill Beaumont was narrowly leading opponent Agustin Pichot with 24 votes to 23 on an initial projection.
Yet, that stood in contrast to other rumours that suggested a clear winner had already emerged, with incumbent Bill Beaumont and Argentine rival Agustin Pichot said to have asked to bring the announcement forward.
It all adds to the drama and speculation of a fiercely contested race for the top job in World Rugby.
Votes from the Japanese Rugby Union and Rugby Africa – who have two votes each – were reportedly said to still be cast.
It is thought that Japan could be leaning towards Beaumont after they were awarded hosting rights for the 2019 World Cup. However, Pichot has promised them integration into the Rugby Championship in the future, which has led to a suggestion that they could split their vote.
If the latter scenario takes place it could leave Rugby Africa with the decisive call to make. In a recent interview, representative Khaled Babbou from Tunisia complained about the amount of funding the governing body had received in comparison to tier-one nations England and France. It is also worth noting that Rugby Africa had backed France’s successful bid for the 2023 World Cup, which was masterminded by Beaumont’s teammate Bernard Laporte.
Beaumont is thought to have received a majority of his support by keeping the Six Nations together while also being publicly backed by Rugby Europe president Octavian Morariu. The rest of his support comes from Canada, Samoa and Fiji while the North American vote has been split.
Meanwhile, former Argentina captain Pichot appears to have won support with his promise of radical reform. Romania, originally thought to be backing Beaumont, have turned their support to Pichot, who also has the backing of the Rugby Championship nations – Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. He is also thought to be supported by South America, Asia, Georgia, Uruguay, the USA and Oceania.
The results of the vote were originally scheduled to be announced on 12 May.
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