Sir Bill Beaumont has fought off competition from Agustin Pichot to be re-elected as the World Rugby chairman for a second term.
Beaumont won a slim 28-23 majority in the vote ahead of his vice-chairman Pichot, who will be replaced by Frenchman Bernard Laporte.
The 68-year-old will stay at the head of the governing body for the next four years, having started the role in 2016, and his primary task will be to lead the sport’s response to the Covid-19 crisis.
He said: “Over the last four years we have achieved a lot, but we are at half-time and need to press on in the second half. I now have a clear mandate to work with Bernard to implement progressive, sustainable change.
“As an organisation, we must lead, be transparent, accountable and continue to serve for all. We must be united in our drive to make this great sport even better, simpler, safer and more accessible.
“We must listen to players, fans, competitions, our unions and regions, and take decisions that are in the best interests of all with our strong values to the fore.
“Now is not the time for celebration. We have work to do. We are tackling Covid-19 and must implement an appropriate return-to-rugby strategy that prioritises player welfare, while optimising any opportunity to return to international rugby this year in full collaboration with club competitions for the good of players, fans and the overall financial health of the sport.
“I am determined to ensure that the spirit of unity and solidarity that has characterised our work in response to an unprecedented global Covid-19 pandemic, is the cornerstone of a new approach that will deliver a stronger, more sustainable game when we emerge with new enthusiasm, a renewed purpose and an exciting future.”
Pichot, who had worked alongside Beaumont for the last four years, had promised a radical new approach had he won the election, but fell just short in his quest to usurp Beaumont.
Beaumont added: “I would like to thank Gus for his friendship and support over the last four years. While we stood against each other in this campaign, we aligned in many ways, and I have the utmost respect for him. Gus is passionate about the sport and his contribution has been significant.”
President of the French Rugby Federation Laporte was voted into his position unopposed.
He said: “Congratulations to my friend Sir Bill Beaumont on his re-election.
“I would also like to express my best wishes to Agustin Pichot, a legend of Argentinian rugby and a great rugby leader.
“I also want to thank all unions who have expressed their opinion in this important ballot, giving a clear mandate for the governance which Bill and I will undertake on their behalf.”
Beaumont’s new four-year term will officially begin on May 12 when the results of the vote will be confirmed at World Rugby’s annual meeting of council.