Bill Beaumont has promised to deliver "progressive, meaningful and sustainable change" after holding off the challenge of Agustin Pichot to be re-elected as World Rugby chairman.
The former England captain won by a margin of 28-23 in the vote of the World Rugby Council in a contest that was far closer than many had anticipated. Pichot's camp believe the balance of power was held by Japan and Rugby Africa, but both votes went the way of Beaumont, who will served another four years. Bernard Laporte, the French Rugby Federation president who is understood to have been incredibly influential in locking up votes, has been elected as vice-chairman.
Beaumont was an odds on-favourite having already secured 20 votes with the backing of the Six Nations countries, who have three votes each, as well as Rugby Europe. However, Pichot, Beaumont's former vice-chairman, ran an energetic campaign after entering the race at the 11th hour.
As well as securing the support of South American countries, the former Argentina scrum half won over the southern-hemisphere heavyweights of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa as well as Georgia, Uruguay and USA.
Crucially, however, he failed to gain the backing of Samoa and Fiji despite promising to reform the voting structure that only allows them one vote each. Instead, the Pacific Island countries stayed behind Beaumont who says he will look at revising eligibility rules so players are not locked to a single country. Beaumont's campaign was mired in controversy when it emerged that the the chairman of the Fiji Rugby Union, which had seconded his nomination, was a convicted killer.
Pichot, who had hinted that he would walk away from rugby if he was not elected, tweeted, "Congratulations Bill. Not this time, thanks to all for the support from the bottom of my heart."
Both Beaumont and Pichot had made a similar set of promises including aligning the northern and southern hemisphere in a global calendar, introducing governance reform and reviving the Nations Championship proposal which was sunk last year by opposition from the Six Nations. Yet in style and perception a radical difference emerged between Beaumont, 68, and Pichot, 45, who vowed to shake up the "old boys club". In much of the narrative, it was framed as a choice between Beaumont, the protector of the ancien regime, and Pichot, the revolutionary.
Beaumont, who was first election chairman in 2016, resented that image. He previously told Telegraph Sport that a second term will allow him to be more radical in his reforms and he reiterated that message.
"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 have a clear mandate to work with Bernard to implement progressive, meaningful and sustainable change," Beaumont said.
"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."
Beaumont must also act to heal the rift which has opened between the Six Nations and the Sanzaar countries who were furious at the collapse of the Nations Championship last year. Yet before he can deliver any change, Beaumont's first priority will be to mitigate the widespread damage caused by the coronavirus lockdown.
The Rugby Football Union estimates it will lose £50million while the United States Rugby Union has already filed for bankruptcy. Replacing the international matches that are due to be played in July will help protect union finances but leading English and French clubs are determined to stop them encroaching outside the set international windows. A delicate balancing act awaits.
"Now is not the time for celebration," Beaumont said. "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 so far 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."
Bill Sweeney, the RFU chief executive, offered his congratulations. "Bill is ideally placed to lead and unite rugby unions in strengthening the game so we can address the immediate and longer term challenges," Sweeney said.