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“A senior International Olympic Committee delegate later told me that the long-held suspicion that rugby was too Anglo-Celtic centric was dispelled when Lapasset addressed his first meeting of the IOC executive board in four languages: French, English, Spanish and Italian.” John O’Neill, former chief executive of the Australian Rugby Union.
Born in 1947, Lapasset played rugby for France Agen in 1967, a junior championship team. He served as chairman of the regional rugby in Ile-de-France from 1988 to 1992, then secretary general in 1991 of the French Rugby Federation (FFR). In 2008, he was confirmed unanimously to serve a four-year term with the IRB, and won reappointment (by one vote) in 2012, beating out England’s Bill Beaumont, who will replace him in 2016.
Some additional achievements under long his tenure were:
Argentina Ascension – After Los Pumas finished a surprising third in the 2007 RWC, Lapasset assisted with funds to the Argentinian Rugby Union for its quest to join New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa in an expansion of the annual, three nation Sanzar tournament. The newly configured Rugby Championship now includes Argentina, whose placement has risen in the World Rugby rankings due to their higher level of international test matches.
HSBC Sevens Circuit Expansion – Lapasset made major changes in the nine stops on the 2014/2015 sevens circuit, expanding the popular event to ten cities for 2015/2016. He eliminated two under-performing cities (Tokyo and Glasgow), added three new venues (Vancouver, Singapore, and Paris), and moved two tournaments to larger stadiums within counties (Sydney in Australia and Capetown in South Africa.) To date, these changes have generated sellout crowds and higher attendance.
Japan Hosting the RWC in 2019 - Lapasset’s vision for a “World in Union” (title of an IRB published coffee table book), making rugby a true international sport, generated the selection of Japan to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup. All previous tournaments were played in Europe, New Zealand, or Australia.
Outreach to the International Gay Rugby Organization – Lapasset made a public announcement with the chairman of the International Gay Rugby Organization that World Rugby would promote “equality and inclusivity” in the sport. There are sixty plus gay rugby clubs globally (23 in the USA).
The past eight-years witnessed unprecedented growth in rugby’s popularity, culminating in August’s Olympics in Rio for twelve nations in women’s and men’s tournaments. Lapasset and his staff deserve much of the credit for shepherding the sport through the IOC selection process. In net, rugby has never been as popular or as publicized.
Lapasset exits to head up the Paris bid for the 2014 Olympics. Everyone in the rugby community wishes him success.