World Rugby has launched an investigation into allegations of homophobia against Fiji Rugby chairperson Francis Kean which could threaten Bill Beaumont's bid for re-election as chairperson of the global governing body.
A report in Britain's Sunday Times said Kean, who was convicted of manslaughter in 2007, has been accused of "rampant homophobia", with the newspaper saying they had heard a recording of him making offensive remarks when he was in charge of the Fijian prison service.
The FRU have seconded Beaumont's bid to serve a second four-year term as World Rugby chairman, with the former England captain being opposed by Argentina great Agustin Pichot.
Meanwhile Kean, a former head of the Fijian Navy, is also one of eight people standing for seven places on the global governing body's powerful executive committee.
Kean currently represents Fiji on the World Rugby council.
World Rugby have stressed Beaumont's nomination came from the Fiji Rugby Union, rather than from the chairman individually, with council places similarly awarded to national unions not individuals.
"World Rugby notes allegations in the UK Sunday Times about Fiji Rugby Union chairperson Ratu Vilikesa Bulewa Francis Kean and takes them extremely seriously," a spokesperson told AFP on Monday.
"Rugby is a sport built on strong and inclusive values and World Rugby does not in any way condone any abusive or discriminatory behaviour, as outlined within its bye-laws.
"World Rugby is currently in dialogue with the Fiji Rugby Union about the nature of the allegations and it would be inappropriate to further comment at this time."
Officials have also emphasised that World Rugby could not be expected to interfere in the justice process of a sovereign nation - especially when a conviction is legally "spent".
Beaumont has promised that, if re-elected, he will undertake a full governance review, including a 'fit and proper persons' test.
The election, by electronic ballot, is due on 26 April with the result set to be announced at a World Rugby council meeting on 12 May.