Rugby-Ex-England coach Woodward backs Pichot to overhaul World Rugby

April 15 (Reuters) - Former England coach Clive Woodward is backing Agustin Pichot’s bid for the top job at World Rugby, saying the Argentine can help steer the sport out of its current financial straits.

Pichot, 45, who is vice chair of global governing body, is running against current chairman Bill Beaumont.

Woodward, who coached England to World Cup glory in 2003, said rugby, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, would benefit from having a younger leader.

"Gus is the right man at the right time to lead this charge," Woodward wrote in a column for the Daily Mail here.

“Rugby is very lucky to have such a visionary throwing his hat into the ring at such a crucial time.”

Pichot said in his election manifesto that the crisis should be viewed as an opportunity for the global realignment of the sport, and Woodward shares a similar vision.

“We need equality, diversity, better player-welfare, better thought-out salary caps and rugby needs to establish a wider cultural relevance to engage younger audiences,” Woodward said.

The problem, he added, stemmed from an imbalance of power between Tier 1 and Tier 2 countries.

Traditional powerhouses such as Australia, England, France, New Zealand, South Africa and Wales, which are part of Tier 1, have three votes each on World Rugby’s council, while seven Tier 2 nations, including Fiji and Samoa, have one vote each.

Japan, which hosted the last year’s Rugby World Cup, has two votes on the council.

The greater voting power of Tier 1 countries has led to “massive inertia and lack of collective will” with regard to equitable revenue and profit sharing, as well as widespread poaching of talent, Woodward said.

“Before Covid-19, rugby was ruled by the ‘haves’ with the ‘have nots’ making up the numbers,” he added. “The old powers need to release their stranglehold on the game which has nearly suffocated it.

“We need to reboot with much more co-operation and more equable sharing of the World Cup profits and all revenue streams.”

England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) has projected a loss of up to 50 million pounds ($63 million), while Rugby Australia faces losses of about A$120 million ($76.56 million) if no more games are played this year.

USA Rugby filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after the game was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. ($1 = 0.7945 pounds) ($1 = 1.5674 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Alexander Smith)