Sir Bill Beaumont has said it is a “distinct possibility” the international rugby union calendar could be scrapped this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The chairman of World Rugby also hit back at Sir Clive Woodward’s criticism, and claimed Bernard Laporte’s suggestion of an annual world club championship had been a “misunderstanding”.

World Rugby is exploring ways to return to playing and finish the 2020 international calendar, but the current global uncertainty led Beaumont to concede it may not be possible to hold any more fixtures this year.

“That is a distinct possibility,” Beaumont told The Times (£). “The pressures on the unions are getting greater and greater.” World Rugby has announced it will provide an £80m relief fund to aid national rugby unions through the crisis.

Beaumont is standing for re-election as chairman of World Rugby, with Laporte as his running mate, and will go up against current vice-chairman Agustín Pichot. Woodward, his former England teammate, has publicly backed Pichot, saying “rugby would benefit from being viewed through the eyes of leader who is 45, not 68.”

“What difference does the age make?” asked Beaumont. “I played my rugby always as an amateur. Does that mean I don’t understand the professional game?

“I am evolution, not revolution,” he added. “I am bidding to show a lead to colleagues, to take colleagues with me. I intend to be a leader. And I think I have been in the past.”

Last week, Laporte floated the idea of a yearly global club tournament to replace the European Champions Cup, but Beaumont has poured cold water on his running-mate’s radical idea.

“It was a misunderstanding,” Beaumont said. “What I can see is a club world championship, but not an annual basis. That is the way we both look upon it.”

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