Former England captain Nigel Melville will replace Rob Andrew as the Rugby Football Union’s director of professional rugby after the end of the current season, the English national governing body said Friday.
Melville is currently the chief executive of USA Rugby and was previously a director of rugby at Premiership clubs Gloucester and Wasps.
Andrew’s 10 years at Twickenham have seen him play a key role in helping end damaging disputes between England and the 12 Premiership clubs over such vexed issues as player release for the national side.
But he has come under fire for his relationship with England coaches during his time as a Twickenham administrator.
Andrew was criticised for his role in hiring former captain Martin Johnson — who had no previous management experience — and for not giving enough support to Stuart Lancaster, sacked as England coach after the team became the first World Cup host nation to exit the tournament in the group stage in October.
But Andrew repeatedly insisted his critics misunderstood his role, saying it was more about developing a pool of England-qualified players and managing relations with the Premiership than assisting the Test side.
Following their World Cup debacle, England — under the guidance of new Australian coach Eddie Jones — won this season’s Six Nations with a grand slam.
The RFU said the 55-year-old Melville would have a similar remit to Andrew and did not include any role with the senior England team in a statement outlining his responsiblities.
“I would like to thank USA Rugby for their support, and I am very proud of what has been achieved in the organisation and the game in the US over the last decade,” said Melville in the RFU’s statement.
“However, I am now hugely excited about this opportunity to join England Rugby in what is a very buoyant time,” added Melville, who won 13 England caps before his career was cut short by injury.
Scrum-half Melville and fly-half Andrew formed a half-back pairing for Wasps and England when they were both at the then London-based side in the 1980s.
Andrew, 53, added: “Having played with and known Nigel for a long time I believe that he is the best candidate to be appointed to take over the reins from me.â€
The RFU, said Andrew had “instigated discussions” with chief executive Ian Ritchie over a “number of months” regarding his departure.
They added he would stay on until the latest agreement between the RFU and the Premiership clubs, due to run until after the 2023 World Cup, was concluded.
Andrew, 53, said: “After 10 years at the RFU and with the impending conclusion of the second Heads of Agreement, it feels like the right time to step down at the end of the season.
“I hope and believe that I will leave a secure foundation to build a successful future,” said Andrew, who won 71 England caps and five for the British and Irish Lions.
He also guided Newcastle to the Premiership title in 1998, while acting as a mentor to Jonny Wilkinson in the early years of the England great’s career.