Bill Beaumont has narrowly failed in his attempt to become chairman of the International Rugby Board.
Frenchman Bernard Lapasset has been re-elected for another term, defeating former England captain Beaumont by 14 votes to 12 an IRB meeting in Los Angeles.
The outcome should have been decided in Auckland during the World Cup in October, but a vote was taken to delay the election until Monday.
Lapasset will now serve a second consecutive term as IRB chairman, commencing on January 1.
His victory was secured after one round of voting, with IRB vice-chairman Beaumont edged out by the 26-strong Council membership.
With both candidates for the chairmanship coming from Europe, the vote was not expected to be split along the north-south divide, but on policy and which man would deliver the best leadership for the IRB.
Beaumont was thought to have strong backing from the home unions, with possible support also from New Zealand and Australia.
Lapasset's power base was expected to come from France and Italy, but mainly the unions who would benefit more from global expansion.