Sir Bill Beaumont’s hopes of re-election as chairman of World Rugby have been boosted after he was publicly backed by the Italian federation.
The ex-England captain, 68, is already guaranteed the support of the French, who nominated him to stand again, as well as England’s Rugby Football Union.
The backing of all Six Nations unions would give Beaumont 18 of the 26 votes required.
The ballot takes place at a council meeting on 12 May.
Beaumont is up against current World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot, who confirmed this week he would be running for the top job and has been supported by Argentina, Australia and Sudamerica Rugby.
While Pichot is running alone, Beaumont is joined on his ticket by Frenchman Bernard Laporte, who has been endorsed as vice-chairman by the RFU and Romania.
Beaumont is also guaranteed the support of Fiji, who seconded his nomination, while the public intervention of the Italians further strengthens his hand.
The unions of the Six Nations and Rugby Championship (Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa) all have three votes each out of a total of 51.
“Bill Beaumont gave an unbelievable contribution to the game during his first term,” Italian rugby boss Alfredo Gavazzi said.
“The Federation of Italian Rugby will be granting him its votes and his support as he seeks re-election at the annual Council Meeting later in May.”