Rugby Union's Most Influential People - Part 5
ESPNscrum Staff
January 7, 2011
French Rugby union Federation (FFR) president Bernard Lapasset speaks during a press conference in Paris, 08 october 2007. Argentina's advance to a first World Cup semi-final was recognised 08 October when Pumas pair Felipe Contempomi and Juan Martin Hernandez were announced as two of the five nominees for the 2007 IRB Player of the Year award.
IRB and RWCL boss Bernard Lapasset heads our countdown of the sport's most influential people © Getty Images

Welcome to ESPNscrum's list of rugby's most influential figures - our take on the people wielding the most power in the game today.

A list compiled at the recent Rugby Expo in London generated plenty of debate and many of you, like us, found fault with the selection. Our Festive Countdown featured some of the names we thought deserved a place on the list and over the coming days we will reveal our Top 25.

And what are the criteria for inclusion? Put simply, we believe these individuals have the power to change the game - be that in the way it is played, coached, managed or consumed. We don't expect everyone to agree with our list or the ranking but we hope it stimulates a debate on who is guiding the future of the game we love.

For our final instalment, we reveal those ranked 1-5.

1. Bernard Lapasset (Chairman, International Rugby Board & Rugby World Cup Limited)

As the chairman of not only the International Rugby Board but also Rugby World Cup Limited, Lapasset is in charge of the game's ultimate governing body and the sport's showpiece event. A former president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), he officially succeeded Syd Millar as the sport's figurehead in 2008 having organised Rugby World Cup 2007 in France. His four-year term has already seen Rugby Sevens return to the Olympic stage and will include rugby's seventh global gathering in New Zealand next year.

2. Martin Snedden (Chief Executive, Rugby New Zealand 2011)

A former New Zealand Test cricketer, Snedden later served as chief executive of New Zealand cricket but his place in our list is secured due to his current role as boss of Rugby New Zealand 2011 - the organisers of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The eyes of the world will converge on New Zealand in less than a year and Snedden is set to have a major say on how the tournament is received among fans and the global audience. His handling of the event will be a key factor in whether the sport as a whole kicks on from the 2007 Rugby World Cup staged in France. The decision to hand New Zealand the tournament drew criticism from some quarters but Snedden has rolled out the welcome mat and promised a tournament to remember.

3. Greg Peters (Chief Executive, SANZAR)

Previously the CEO of the Hurricanes and Wellington, Peters took over the SANZAR reins from Jonathan Stones in 2010. He will lead the alliance into the most challenging and exciting period in recent memory, with the Super Rugby landscape set to change in 2011 and Argentina set to be welcomed into the Tri-Nations fold in 2012. Peters previously served SANZAR as tournament director and also helped to broker their lucrative TV deals in 2003 and 2004.

4. Rupert Murdoch (Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive, News Corporation)

The Australian-born media magnate and the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of News Corporation bankrolls rugby in the southern hemisphere - and has done for years - thanks to big-money broadcasting deals that underpin Super Rugby and the Tri-Nations. His media empire includes a large shareholding in BSkyB, the home of Sky Sports in the UK, SKY Network Television in New Zealand and Foxtel in Australia as well as a host of newspaper titles around the world. Odds are that if you are watching or reading about the game then Murdoch has had a hand in it somewhere.

5. John Steele (Chief Executive, Rugby Football Union)

A former player, coach and director of Northampton Saints and chief executive of UK Sport, Steele is currently the main man at the RFU having succeeded Francis Baron in 2010. The Union is the sport's richest governing body and responsible for the interests of, "over 2.25million players, almost 2,000 rugby clubs, 3,100 schools, more than 37,000 referees, in excess of 74,000 coaches and over 58,000 volunteers." His plans to re-structure the RFU, and the game in England as a whole, are in full swing having been approved by the union's management board with the goal being the staging of an unrivalled Rugby World Cup in 2015 and a major assault on the sport's biggest prize.

6. John Feehan (Chief Executive, British & Irish Lions, Six Nations Rugby Ltd)

Feehan is responsible for guiding one of the biggest and strongest brands in sport - the British & Irish Lions. He joined the organisation as Commercial Director in 2002 and progressed to the role of Chief Executive in 2003. He has since overseen the tours to New Zealand in 2005 and most memorably the visit to South Africa in 2009 and will also spearhead the Lions' trip to Australia in 2013. He has also announced the ground-breaking plan to play a game in Hong Kong ahead of that tour and secured a new deal with title sponsors HSBC.

7. Steve Tew (Chief Executive, New Zealand Rugby Union)

Tew has one of the rugby world's most challenging and high-profile jobs. The former boss at Canterbury and a key figure in the emergence of the Crusaders as a force in Super Rugby, Tew is the figurehead for the game in one of the most unforgiving hotbeds of rugby talent and also the man charged with the proper management of rugby's most recognisable brand: the All Blacks.

8. Derek McGrath (Chief Executive, European Rugby Cup)

McGrath heads up the body that organises the most prestigious and exciting club rugby competition in the northern hemisphere - the Heineken Cup - and the second tier Amlin Challenge Cup. A former Irish international, and a qualified veterinary surgeon, he took charge of ERC in 2000 just as the Heineken Cup was beginning to find its feet as a competition and has spearheaded development into one of the sport's trump cards.

9. Paddy O'Brien (Referees Manager, International Rugby Board)

The former international referee is now the International Rugby Board's Referee Manager and as a result is in charge of the game's elite officials. He is responsible for ensuring consistency among referees in terms of interpretation and must also assess performances and decide who makes up the IRB Referees Panel.

10. Damian Hopley (Chief Executive, Rugby Players' Association & Chairman, International Rugby Players' Association)

Hopley played for Wasps and England but was forced to retire from professional rugby in 1998 after a series of knee operations. He went on to found the Rugby Players' Association that same year. Ever since he has been the driving force behind the RPA and his influence ensures that players' rights are protected and represented at all levels within the sport. He has been the principal negotiator for both the England and British & Irish Lions players' contracts since 2001. He also currently heads up the International Rugby Players' Association.

11. Mark McCafferty (Chief Executive, Premiership Rugby)

As chief executive of Premiership Rugby, the umbrella body representing the 12 Aviva Premiership teams, McCafferty is responsible for protecting and furthering the interests of English rugby's leading clubs. Having succeeded Howard Thomas in 2005, McCafferty has played a key role in the development of the Premiership with lucrative sponsorship deals with Guinness and Aviva and broadcasting agreements with Sky Sports, ITV and ESPN helping to cement the league status as one of the leading competitions in world rugby.

12. Richie McCaw (Captain, New Zealand)

The International Rugby Board's three-time Player of the Year also happens to be New Zealand's most capped player - alongside fellow veteran Mils Muliaina - and has also led the All Blacks more times than any other player. A modern great, McCaw is the complete player. He boasts the size and strength to be a formidable defender whilst displaying the speed and handling skills to excel in the loose. Add his game-awareness and leadership prowess and you have an unrivalled rugby talent. He has his detractors who allege he gets an easy ride from officials but in truth he stands like a colossus over the game and he sets the standard that everyone else aspires to. He only turned 30 last week and has his eyes on the one major prize to have alluded him.

13. Oregan Hoskins (President, South African Rugby Union)

Hoskins was re-elected as President of SARU in 2010 and a change in the constitution means his third terms will see him head up the proud rugby nation until 2014. He replaced Brian van Rooyen in the role in 2006 in the hope of bringing an end to a series of management feuds and political rows. However, his tenure has also been blighted by controversy including his enforced selection of Luke Watson while he has also had to handle gaffe-prone coach Peter de Villiers. A member of the International Rugby Board Council and the Executive Committee he is also a key member of the SANZAR alliance and sits on the board of Rugby World Cup Ltd.

14. Dan Carter (Fly-half, New Zealand)

Arguably the greatest player in the world, Carter's winning mix of talent and looks make him a marketing man's dream. Perpignan took the bait in 2008 to sign the All Black on a lucrative deal worth in the region of £618,000 and following next year's Rugby World Cup he could demand an even larger fee to return north. Also took Jonny Wilkinson's world points record on New Zealand's recent Grand Slam tour.

15. Mike Miller (Chief Executive, International Rugby Board & Managing Director, Rugby World Cup Limited)

As chief executive of the IRB and a major player in Rugby World Cup Ltd, Miller has a finger in two of rugby's most important pies. With Sevens set to become an Olympic sport in 2016, Argentina joining the Tri-Nations and the Rugby World Cup heading to Japan in 2020, he will soon be overseeing a sport with greater boundaries, and commercial opportunities, than ever before. Miller is also a member of the IRB Council and IRB Executive Committee.

16. Bart Campbell (Chief Executive, Essentially Group)

As chief executive of one of the world's biggest sports marketing and player management companies, Essentially, Campbell has a significant interest in the game. His company represents some of the sport's leading lights - including three-time IRB Player of the Year and All Blacks captain Richie McCaw - and has also struck commercial deals on behalf of the British & Irish Lions, Welsh Rugby Union, Scottish Rugby, the Magners League, the IRB World Sevens Series and European Rugby Cup.

17. Mark Egan (Head of Development, International Rugby Board)

As the International Rugby Board's Head of Development and Performance, Egan is a key player in driving the growth of the sport around the world. Amongst other things, he must oversee Argentina's planned entry into the Four Nations alongside Australia, New Zealand and South Africa whilst ensuring the sport as a whole capitalises on Rugby Sevens' return to the Olympics and the competition in Rio in 2016 itself.

18. Andy Irvine (Manager, 2013 British & Irish Lions)

Recently selected to lead the elite tourists to Australia in 2013, Irvine won 51 caps for Scotland in a glittering playing career and toured with the Lions himself on three occasions following his bow on their famous 1974 trip to South Africa. He will now lead the search for a coach and help to shape the dynamic of the tour - a tradition held close to the heart of the Home Unions and their fans.

19. Pierre-Yves Revol (Chairman, Ligue Nationale de Rugby)

Revol served as president of Castres Olympic between 1989 and 2008 and since then he has been chairman of the Ligue Nationale de Rugby - the umbrella body representing France's leading clubs. Having succeeded French legend Serge Blanco in the role, he is serving a four-year term during which he is charged with harnessing the power of the big-spending Top 14 clubs and their ProD2 counterparts. And with the commanding presence, deep pockets and marketing nous of Toulouse's Rene Bouscatel, Biarritz' Serge Blanco, Toulon's Mourad Boudjellal, Stade Francais' Max Guazzini and Racing Metro's Jacky Lorenzetti in their ranks the LNR continues to pack a significant punch.

20. Pierre Camou (President, French Rugby Federation)

Camou took on the leadership of the Fédération Française de Rugby in 2008 in the wake of the 2007 Rugby World Cup - an event organised by his predecessor Bernard Lapasset. Upon his election he pledged to give more power to the big-spending French clubs and recently signalled his intention to take the national side away from the Stade de France. He previously served as Vice President of the Centre National du Rugby (CNR) in Marcoussis and also worked as President of the Cote Basque - Landes rugby committee for 12 years.

21. John O'Neill (Chief Executive, Australian Rugby Union)

O'Neill's often outspoken and controversial statements have added to his stature within the game - with those both inside and outside the ARU having been subjected to his scrutiny. He successfully oversaw the 2003 Rugby World Cup and subsequently enjoyed a spell with the Football Federation of Australia during the 2006 World Cup. A supporter of the ELVs, he returned to the ARU prior to the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has recently overseen the emergence of Robbie Deans' whip-smart young Wallabies side but faces some testing times in terms of the union's financial plight and the sport's popularity.

22. Graham Henry (Head Coach, New Zealand)

As coach of the world's No.1 side, Henry has the responsibility of steering the sport's most dominant on-field presence. His charges reclaimed the Tri-Nations title in 2010 and also recorded the third Grand Slam tour of his tenure with an enthralling brand of fast-paced and clinical rugby. His blueprint for devastating rugby under the latest directives issued by the International Rugby Board set the standard and propelled him towards 100 Test wins as a coach. With that success comes added pressure to claim the World Cup crown in 2011.

23. Judge Jeff Blackett (Disciplinary Officer, Rugby Football Union)

It may be a sad indictment that a judicial officer has such a high profile in the game, but Blackett - a former Judge Advocate General of the Armed Forces - has become a front-line presence in recent seasons. Having presided over Harlequins' 'Bloodgate' scandal and the bans against five Bath players for drug-related offences in 2009, Blackett was also the judicial officer for the Rugby World Cups in Australia in 2003 and France in 2007. He also has a seat on the RFU's 'Image of the Game' panel and is set to run a rule over the sport for some time to come.

24. Adam Crozier (Chief Executive, ITV)

Crozier hit the headlines during his stint at chief executive of the Football Association and is now in the position to exert a fair amount of influence in the rugby sphere as head of one of its key broadcast partners. ITV recently extended their partnership with the Rugby World Cup to include the exclusive UK TV rights for the 2011 and more importantly the 2015 tournament that will be staged in England. Along with his Head of Sport, Niall Sloane, he also presides over Aviva Premiership and Heineken Cup packages, but it is as host broadcaster for RWC'15 that they will attract the eyes of the world and take the game into millions of living rooms and clubs.

25. Paul Vaughan (Chief Executive, Rugby England 2015)

Vaughan, who most recently served as the Rugby Football Union's business operations director, will move to his role as head of Rugby England 2015 - the organisers of the 2015 Rugby World Cup - later this month. Over the past decade, Vaughan has overseen steady commercial growth at the RFU and will be expected to have a similar golden touch on a key tournament for the sport to ensure his employers make good on their own investment and the sport as a whole can benefit.

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