World Rugby, its regional associations and unions have been leading the tributes to Bernard Lapasset, who today confirmed that he will not be seeking re-election as Chairman of the international federation in May.
Lapasset, who is stepping down to concentrate on his role as co-chairman of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games bid committee, will be remembered as a visionary during two terms as chairman that have seen rugby firmly establish itself as a global sport with record participation, audience and commercial growth, record-breaking Rugby World Cups, rugby sevens Olympic Games inclusion, a new brand and identity and governance reform.
Lapasset informed his World Rugby Executive Committee colleagues in Dublin this morning, saying: “After careful consideration I have taken the decision not to seek a further term of office as Chairman of World Rugby. I feel that this is the right time for‎ me to complete my current term and pass on the ball to one of my superb colleagues. 
"Rugby has never been healthier and I am so proud of what we have achieved in growing the game around the globe, securing rugby sevens on the Olympic programme, staging wonderful tournaments, including Rugby World Cup 2015, taking the women's game to new levels and properly addressing key issues such as governance and player welfare.
"I am proud of my time at the helm of World Rugby and excited by what lies ahead for our sport, including the debut of rugby sevens at Rio 2016.
"On a personal note I want to say a big thank you to all those who contribute so much to keep the game so alive and well and particularly to all my colleagues who serve World Rugby ‎in many different ways and at every level of the game. I will stay in touch.
"My decision will allow me to stay connected to the game I love while now devoting more time to my role as co-chairman of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid. We are now entering into the heart of the campaign and nothing would give me greater pleasure than bringing the Games back to Paris ‎for a real centenary celebration of Olympism in 2024. I hope to have the honour of being part of a successful bid from my home country, something that would be so special for me personally and for the people of France.”
World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper led the tributes: “Bernard Lapasset is a wonderful ambassador for our sport, a great leader and a true visionary, who has presided over unparalleled growth and success in our sport.
“Throughout his tenure, his passion and dedication has always been evident and he has always been a beacon for transparency, inclusivity and a champion of rugby’s character-building values. He should be proud of where the sport is today and what World Rugby, its unions and the sport has achieved during his chairmanship.
“I know that I speak on behalf of the global rugby family when I thank him for his immense contribution and wish him all the very best when he begins a new and exciting chapter in his remarkable sporting life later this year.”
In accordance with World Rugby Bye-Law 9.6.2 (c), member unions are invited to submit nominations for the position of World Rugby Chairman and/or Vice-Chairman by the closing date of 12 March, 2016.
In line with the electoral process set out under the Bye-Law, a candidate must be proposed and seconded by a member of Council and achieve a simple majority of the votes held by the members of Council present. The vote numbers will be published.
1991 – Elected FFR President
1995 – Chairman of IRB for historic Rugby World Cup 1995 in South Africa
2006 – Order of Merit of New Zealand
2007 – Chairman of the Organising Committee of Rugby World Cup 2007 
2007 – Elected Chairman of IRB following record breaking Rugby World Cup
2007 – Awarded officier de la Legion d’honneur
2009 – Led IRB’s successful bid for Rugby Sevens’ Olympic Games inclusion
2009 – Awarding Rugby World Cup 2015 to England and 2019 to Japan, the first Rugby World Cup in Asia
2009 – First Rugby World Cup Sevens to include a women's competition
2010 – Visionary IRB strategic plan launched, a blueprint for growing the global rugby family
2010 – Ten-year tours and test schedule launched
2010 – Facilitating Argentina’s inclusion in The Rugby Championship
2010 – Record-breaking Women's Rugby World Cup in England
2011 – Record-breaking Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand and re-elected as IRB Chairman
2011 – Women’s Strategic Plan launched
2013 – Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 in Moscow 
2014 – Record-breaking Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 delivered in France
2014 – IRB rebranded as World Rugby with dynamic new identity
2015 – New World Rugby Sevens Series cycle launched with record commercial values
2015 – Record-breaking RWC 2015 and wide-ranging governance reform launched
2015 – Awarded Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur
2016 – Record participation growth sees 7.73 million participants in rugby worldwide