New World Rugby chief Beaumont out to 'repay game'

Dublin (AFP) - Former England captain Bill Beaumont was on Wednesday elected chairman of World Rugby, vowing to "repay the game" that made him a star and address concussion concerns.

Beaumont, 64, succeeds Frenchman Bernard Lapasset and will work alongside new vice-chairman Agustin Pichot, the former Argentina captain.

Both men, who stood unopposed, will officially take up their roles on July 1.

"I am honoured to accept the mandate of council to serve as World Rugby chairman at what is an exciting and pivotal time for the sport," Beaumont said at the official announcement in Dublin.

"Now I have the opportunity to repay what the game has given me. I won't take (World Rugby's) support for granted and I fully intend to repay their faith.

"Rugby's never been in a better position. It's growing into new markets, we have over seven million people playing the game and this year it makes its return to the Olympics for the first time since 1924.

"Players must be at the heart of our decision-making and it is our responsibility to look after players for life, not just 80 minutes.

"We must continue to be at the forefront of concussion research and we must preserve the integrity of the sport.

"I will ensure there are processes in place to tackle all forms of corruption and a world class anti-doping programme."

Beaumont won 34 caps for England and captained his country to a Five Nations Grand Slam success in 1980. He also captained the British and Irish Lions, for whom he played seven times.

After retiring, he carved out a career as a regular guest on British television quiz show 'A Question of Sport', before returning to rugby as an administrator.

- Earlier World Cup draw -

He is the Rugby Football Union and Six Nations Rugby chairman, was World Rugby vice-chairman from 2007 to 2012 and also served on the body's executive committee and the Rugby World Cup board.

"Rugby has experienced significant and rapid growth, which is a credit to Bernard Lapasset and his leadership over the past eight years," added Beaumont, who will serve a four-year term.

"The sport is in excellent health and over the next four years there will be many great opportunities to further develop and grow the game.

"However, we cannot be complacent. Rugby, like all sports, faces challenges and my manifesto outlines the five priorities focused on addressing these.

"These priorities are continuing to protect players, preserving integrity, enhancing global competition, optimising partnerships and empowering and strengthening unions."

Lapasset served as chairman for eight years, over two terms, but decided not to seek a third term in order to focus on leading the Paris bid for the 2024 Olympic Games.

"Rugby is in great shape around the world, and I am proud that I vacate the position after eight wonderful years, during which we have achieved record participation, increased interest and engagement, Olympic inclusion and record-breaking Rugby World Cups," Lapasset said.

"I leave with a dynamic new governance model implemented, and I am delighted that my colleague and friend, Bill Beaumont -- with a clear vision and strong passion for the global development of rugby -- will drive the game into this exciting period."

World Rugby also announced that the pool draw for the 2019 World Cup will take place next May, eight months closer to the tournament than the draw for the 2015 competition.

Wales were drawn alongside Australia and hosts England when the draw for last year's World Cup was made in December 2012, after slipping to ninth in the world ranking.

It led to England's elimination in the group phase and rugby's leading nations have argued that the closer to the tournament the draw is held, the more accurately it will reflect the balance of power in the game.

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