Rugby: Pacific Island rugby leader Daniel Leo calls for stand against World Rugby 'corruption'

Stamping corruption out of World Rugby governance must be the sole focus of the game's powerbrokers, insists Pacific Rugby Players Welfare chief executive Daniel Leo.

With a key leadership vote looming this week, the former Manu Samoa international has become an outspoken lobbyist for Argentinian Agustin Pichot, who is challenging for the role of chairman.

On Tuesday, Leo penned an open letter, calling for World Rugby to unseat Fijian rugby boss Francis Kean, amid allegations of corruption, homophobia and bullying.

Kean has since resigned as Fiji's representative on the World Rugby council and withdrawn his bid for the executive committee.

His demise is a big blow to Sir Bill Beaumont's campaign for re-election as chairman, since Fiji surprisingly seconded his nomination last week.

Leo has told Newshub the scandal proves something is fundamentally wrong with the game's administration at the highest level and questions the integrity of those in charge.

"It boggles the mind how the heck [Kean] got to this point to start with," Leo says. "We need to ask that question of World Rugby. 

"Someone with that sort of history does not align with the values we promote in the game. We have to make a stand against corruption and this sort of activity.

"I find it hard to believe that the powers-that-be didn't know about Francis Kean's history.

"This is stuff we have known in the Pacific for a long time. It's been out there in the public domain.

"If Beaumont and World Rugby didn't know about that, then that creates a big question around the way the game is being run."

But Leo isn't convinced the last 48 hours will cost Beaumont his job. The incumbent can still count on support from the strong European contingent, while Pichot needs to rally almost unanimous support from second-tier nations.

"The proof will be in the pudding," he says. "I'm not going to get too excited, but it certainly slammed the door a bit on [Beaumont's] campaign and it embarrassed him. 

"It will take some work for him to pull this back."

Sir Bill Beaumont
Sir Bill Beaumont Photo credit: Getty

Leo concedes both candidates have positive and negatives to the ballot.

"My biggest fear isn't about Bill Beaumont, it's more around the nomination of the vice-chairman candidate Bernard Laporte, who seconded Francis Kean's nomination to the committee. That's the big issue. 

"What is this relationship between France and Fijian unions that has allowed this to happen, without the checks in place to ensure the credibility of candidates?

"I do hope that common sense prevails and the key thing here is that we need a change. For the sustainability of rugby in the Pacific, we can't just keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.

"For me, that is getting behind Agustin Pichot."

Leo is so disillusioned by the ructions at World Rugby, he even compares it to FIFA scandals of the past, although he suggests the notorious football body would have spat Kean out before reaching an executive level. 

"You hear stories like that and it brings rugby's governance into disrepute," he says. "There is no way someone of Francis Kean's nature would have even progressed past a social administrator in football. 

"We can no longer point the finger at any other sport. This highlights we have a very long way to go."