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Fiji’s Kean resigns from World Rugby council following allegations

Agustin Pichot (left) is running against World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont (Credit: Getty Images)

The Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) has withdrawn its nomination of Francis Kean from World Rugby’s executive committee and he has stood down from the international federation’s council ahead of the World Rugby chairman vote.

Following details of a manslaughter conviction and allegations of homophobia, Kean has immediately stepped down from his role. Kean cannot now be replaced on the World Rugby executive committee, the game’s global board, as the deadline for nominations has passed.

World Rugby said yesterday (Tuesday) that a formal investigation into Kean had not been launched but that it was speaking to officials in Fiji about the next steps.

Fiji had originally seconded current chairman Bill Beaumont’s nomination for chairman, but Kean’s withdrawal could alter the context of their vote. One vote from the south Pacific nation could swing the World Rugby election toward Beaumont or his rival Agustin Pichot.

The Fiji Rugby Union’s seat on the World Rugby council will be filled by union chief executive John O’Connor.

World Rugby said yesterday (Tuesday): “While it is important to stress that any allegations must be validated, following dialogue with World Rugby, the Fiji Rugby Union recognises the seriousness of the allegations made and the need for them to be fully investigated, and that it is in the best interests of the sport that Mr Kean steps down from the Council and his Executive Committee candidature be withdrawn.”

Pichot, the incumbent World Rugby vice-chairman, set out a surprise late bid earlier this month to become World Rugby chairman, while Beaumont announced in January that he would be seeking re-election as chairman at World Rugby’s council meeting in May. However, French Rugby Federation (FFR) president Bernard Laporte will stand as Beaumont’s candidate for vice-chairman, and not Pichot. The two men are the only contenders for the role of chairman.

Beaumont laid out his vision earlier this month, while Pichot’s concept would elevate Fiji into tier-one competitions and expand the Lions tour to the Americas.

The Six Nations and Sanzaar countries are reported to be deadlocked in a clash of the hemispheres over the future global direction of rugby union.

Given the global spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the executive committee election will take place virtually together with the vote for World Rugby chairman and vice-chairman on May 12.