New Zealand rugby officials voiced confidence yesterday that change is on the way despite the re-election of Frenchman Bernard Lapasset as International Rugby Board (IRB) chairman.
At an IRB council meeting in Los Angeles on Monday, Lapasset was returned for a second term in the hot seat by a narrow 14-12 margin over New Zealand’s preferred leader, Englishman Bill Beaumont.
New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) chief executive Steve Tew believes the closeness of the vote sent a strong message that change is necessary in the way the sport is run.
During the recent Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, Tew threatened to pull champions All Blacks from the next edition of the sport’s global showpiece in 2015 unless there is a shakeup.
He argued that IRB regulations surrounding participation in the World Cup led to combined losses for the major rugby unions of between US$55 million and US$63 million.
Although he believed Beaumont was the best man to initiate a new era for rugby, Tew told Fairfax Media from Los Angeles, he was confident Lapasset would address the issues.
“I think Bernard has got a very clear message, not just from New Zealand, but the fact that there was a 14-12 vote suggests half the constituency of world rugby was looking for some change,” Tew said. “The big issue in New Zealand was they were trying to get the World Cup timing sorted out without having finished the review work, and that’s where we put our foot down and made those thoughts known.”
Tew said Lapasset would have New Zealand’s full support as chairman.
“It was a close election between two good people. We’ve been very up front with Bernard from the start ... our board decided to back Bill and we told Bernard. It’s not a personal thing,” he said.