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Agustin Pichot claims he was betrayed by Rugby Africa president in World Rugby chairman vote

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 22/05/2020 Daniel Schofield
© Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images

Agustin Pichot has accused Rugby Africa president Khaled Babbou of costing him the World Rugby chairmanship in an extraordinary personal attack.

Pichot lost the election against incumbent Bill Beaumont by 28 votes to 23. In an interview with Argentinean television, Pichot suggests that Babbou switched his vote at the last moment hinting that he may have been swayed by illicit promises by his opponent’s camp.

“That betrayal occurred in the last days,” Pichot told TNT Sports. “You are going to know why I was betrayed, favours are being made on the edge of ethics. On our side you will not find any type of negotiation. It was done that way and for that reason we lost. I would not have done it in any other way.

“We were 23-23 with 24 hours to go. Africa did what it did and we lost.”

After entering the race at the eleventh hour, Pichot ran Beaumont, his former running mate, far harder than most people anticipated. In the end it came down to a handful of countries, with Rugby Africa and Samoa allegedly switching their votes.

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It has also emerged that Rugby Europe pledged their support for Beaumont, who is understood to have dismissed speculation of untowardness as “ridiculous”, without consulting countries such as Germany.

Pichot has since resigned from his position on the World Rugby Council, giving an emotive farewell speech. However the manner of his defeat clearly leaves a bitter taste, particularly around the actions of Babbou.

“In the last week one of our group disappeared,” Pichot said. "It is May 21st and we are still looking for him. His name is Khaled Babbou. If anyone finds him, tell them. He came to my house, we got together in the US, in Europe. He was the most combative. We were going for the French revolution and suddenly he disappeared.

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"One Saturday morning the South African calls me and says: ‘Did you call Khaled Babbou in the last 48 hours? Because it sounds a bit bad to me.’ I called him and he said: ‘Wait a minute, I'm calling you now.’ He said: ‘Rest easy’. And I never knew anything more.”

Babbou was unavailable for comment. A World Rugby spokesperson said: “The election was fairly contested by two excellent leadership candidates with clear visions for the sport. It would be inappropriate to comment on unsubstantiated speculation.”

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