Vice-chairman Augustin Pichot says World Rugby will not bail out Sanzaar nations that hit the financial skids, making it critical they extract themselves quickly from the coronavirus pandemic.
Pichot said the four leading southern hemisphere countries must work together to emerge from the crisis, citing a chilling scenario of Rugby Australia collapsing financially and sparking an international domino impact.
No rugby at all in 2020 for the Wallabies, All Blacks, Springboks and Pumas would create a combined financial deficit of about $790m, Pichot estimated, something World Rugby could not hope to cover.
It made the battle to quell Covid-19 in timely fashion critical for the sport in the southern hemisphere whose unions, he said, must remain unified.
“Because if Australia falls, then it hits straight to New Zealand first, then it will hit South Africa and Argentina. So we all fall,” Pichot told The Breakdown show on Sky TV.
“There’s no individual way. The first issue we need to address is coronavirus and mitigate it. It’s not about World Rugby giving handouts, because there’s no handout possible. World Rugby does not have the £400m.”
Pichot said the sport’s enforced break should prompt Sanzaar to assess the ongoing profitability and viability of its competitions, even in the short term.
The forward-thinking former Argentina international believes now is a good time to assess the value of introducing Japan and Fiji to a new-look Rugby Championship.
He suggested Super Rugby’s entire blueprint could be addressed, even wondering if the Buenos Aires-based Jaguares can afford to remain if international travel becomes prohibitive.
“Maybe you find out that that competition cannot be played because it is not profitable or is too much of a burden,” Pichot said.
“Even in Argentina, can we really afford to carry on Super Rugby with the Jaguares having to pay for the trips all round the world? Maybe we have to fold Jaguares and look for other alternatives.”
Pichot has announced he will challenge England’s Bill Beaumont for the World Rugby chairmanship and is likely to garner support from the southern hemisphere nations.
Beaumont has promised a major review of World Rugby to transform it into a voice for all nations, not just the traditional powers of the sport, and wants to revisit a global season competition structure that failed to take off last year.
Pichot, the underdog when votes are tallied on 26 April, has staked his bid on a modern, more inclusive game that incorporates private investment and gives emerging nations a greater say.
“In the last year or year and half, I’ve been challenging the system from the inside, but I couldn’t get traction,” Pichot said. “I thought the establishment was pushing me out a little bit, to be honest.”