Fiji Rugby Union chairman Francis Kean has stood down from his role on the World Rugby council following allegations of homophobia.

The Sunday Times reported a recording of Kean, while he was in charge of the Fiji prison service, in which the paper alleged he used homophobic language.

Kean's candidature for one of the seven places on the World Rugby executive committee has also been withdrawn.

A World Rugby statement read: "World Rugby takes all allegations of behaviour that is not in keeping with the sport's strong and inclusive values and bye-laws extremely seriously.

"While it is important to stress that any allegations must be validated, following dialogue with World Rugby, the Fiji Rugby Union recognises the seriousness of the allegations made and the need for them to be fully investigated, and that it is in the best interests of the sport that Mr Kean steps down from the council and his executive committee candidature be withdrawn.

"The Fiji Rugby Union has confirmed that its seat on the World Rugby Council will be filled by union CEO John O'Connor."

Kean is also a former head of the country's navy and served time in prison for a manslaughter committed at the 2006 wedding of the daughter of the Fijian prime minister - his brother-in-law Frank Bainimarama. 

In a letter to the World Rugby Council this week, the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare organisation stated: "It is extraordinary to anyone involved in the game in the Pacific that Kean is even on the ballot" and made multiple allegations of unethical behaviour against the Fijian.

The FRU supported Bill Beaumont's bid for re-election as chairman of the global governing body.

Beaumont and former Argentina scrum-half Agustin Pichot are the contenders for the position of World Rugby chairman for the next four years in elections due to be held next month.