Former England coach Clive Woodward is backing Agustin Pichot's bid for the top job at World Rugby, saying the Argentine can help steer the sport out of its current financial straits.

Pichot, 45, who is vice chair of the global governing body, is running against Bill Beaumont (68), a former England captain and chairman since 2016.

Woodward, who coached England to World Cup glory in 2003, said rugby, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, would benefit from having a younger leader.

"Gus is the right man at the right time to lead this charge," Woodward wrote in the Daily Mail.

"Rugby is very lucky to have such a visionary throwing his hat into the ring at such a crucial time."

Pichot said in his election manifesto that the crisis should be viewed as an opportunity for the global realignment of the sport, and Woodward shares a similar vision.

"We need equality, diversity, better player-welfare, better thought-out salary caps and rugby needs to establish a wider cultural relevance to engage younger audiences," Woodward said.

The problem, he added, stemmed from an imbalance of power between Tier 1 and Tier 2 countries.

Traditional powerhouses such as the Six Nations and Rugby Championship teams, which are part of Tier 1, have three votes each on World Rugby's council, while seven Tier 2 nations, including Fiji and Samoa, have one vote each.

Japan, which hosted the last year's Rugby World Cup, has two votes on the council.

Could Japan join the Rugby Championship

Meanwhile, Pichot has said southern hemisphere nations cannot expect bail-outs during the coronavirus shutdown - and warned of financial contagion if any of them goes under.

Media reports have raised the possibility of a cash rescue for Rugby Australia, which is facing serious financial difficulties and has been locked in pay talks with player representatives this week.

But Pichot ruled out the measure, and said other countries were at risk if one union fails.

"If Australia falls, then it hits straight to New Zealand first, then it will hit South Africa and Argentina so we all fall. There's no individual way," he told Sky Sport NZ.

"It's not about World Rugby giving handouts, because there's no handout possible," added Pichot, estimating a £400 million pound (€4.6m) loss if the southern hemisphere teams cannot play this year.

"World Rugby does not have 400 million pounds... and giving handouts for a cash-flow burden, that won't bring you a solution to the problems that Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina will have if we don't play any games at all this year."

As concerns mount, the head of southern hemisphere body SANZAAR has proposed playing the Super Rugby club competition and the Rugby Championship Tests simultaneously when the virus suspension ends, to cram in as many games as possible.

Pichot also suggested adding Fiji and Japan to the Rugby Championship - which currently involves New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina - to help grow the game and broaden the market.

"I strongly believe with this crisis that things will make countries be on their knees for the first time in the history of the professional game. And we need a solution," he said.

"There's no point of having Australia on their knees or New Zealand on their knees or South Africa on their knees, for England, Scotland, Wales if they need that income in November," he added, referring to the SANZAAR teams' annual Test tours of Europe.

Pichot said: "But at the same time, that's where you need to only take care of yourself, but also just see how Fiji comes in. Why not the Rugby Championship? Now with Fiji and Japan coming in, why not?"