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Andrew to leave RFU after 10 years, with Nigel Melville arriving from USA Rugby

Published 29/04/2016

Rob Andrew will leave the Rugby Football Union at the end of this season with Nigel Melville replacing him as director of professional rugby
Rob Andrew will leave the Rugby Football Union at the end of this season with Nigel Melville replacing him as director of professional rugby

Rob Andrew believes that Nigel Melville is "the best candidate" to succeed him as Rugby Football Union director of professional rugby.

Andrew's 1 0-year RFU stint, during which time he held a number of senior roles, will finish at the end of this season following his resignation that was announced on Friday.

And Melville will head to Twickenham this summer as Andrew's replacement, leaving USA Rugby, where he has worked as their highly-successful chief executive.

In the meantime, Andrew will continue working on completion of the latest agreement between Twickenham and England's Aviva Premiership clubs that is set to run until after the 2023 World Cup.

His departure from English rugby's corridors of power is the latest development during a season that saw England become the first host nation in World Cup history to make a pool stage exit - a failure which resulted in head coach Stuart Lancaster leaving - before Lancaster's successor Eddie Jones masterminded Six Nations title glory and a first Grand Slam since 2003.

Andrew previously held RFU posts that included rugby operations director and elite director of rugby.

But he also had many critics during his Twickenham tenure, particularly following a dismal 2011 World Cup campaign in New Zealand under Martin Johnson's management that was scarred by off-field controversy, as had been the case during England's 2008 New Zealand tour, which Andrew led in Johnson's absence.

Many dubbed former England fly-half Andrew "the great survivor," while others regularly trotted out his nickname "squeaky" as in squeaky-clean, but he was also a pivotal player in helping to crucially thrash out long-term agreement between the RFU and its top clubs.

The RFU said that former England scrum-half Melville would take over the remits of Andrew and head of player development Joe Lydon, whose resignation was announced last month.

Melville, whose previous jobs included rugby director roles at Premiership clubs Wasps and Gloucester, will be responsible for professional rugby in England for the RFU, with particular focus around managing relationships with Premiership Rugby, the English qualified player scheme, the EPS (elite player squad) agreement and the academy system.

"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," Melville, 55, said.

"I feel I am leaving USA Rugby in a very strong place to continue the growth it has experienced in recent years and keep improving internationally.

"However, I am now hugely excited about this opportunity to join England Rugby in what is a very buoyant time.

"This year already, the men have claimed the Grand Slam, the domestic game has continued to thrive, the Under-20s are looking to win the World Rugby U20 Junior World Championship in Manchester, and the men and women will compete in the sevens competition at the Olympics in Rio for the first time ever."

Andrew 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. I wish him well, and I will support him in any way I can going forward."

The RFU said Andrew had resigned, "having instigated discussions with RFU CEO Ian Ritchie for a number of months," adding that he has "made a major contribution to England Rugby and will leave the domestic game and England teams in excellent shape".

Andrew has agreed to continue working on completing the latest agreement with Premiership Rugby that will run through until after the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

"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," he said.

"My role has primarily been to set up a structure that would ultimately deliver long-term success to England through a pipeline of talented players coming through the academy system.

"Bringing together the clubs to support the new academy scheme required recognition from the RFU to reward them to bring on successful academy players, and I believe we have achieved this.

"The pipeline is going from strength to strength, and I believe will deliver Eddie Jones and his coaches the world-class players that England need to ensure increasing success going forward."

Ritchie, meanwhile, added: "We are obviously disappointed to see Rob leave the RFU after 10 years, which has seen him bring about a great deal of positive change at the professional end of the game in England in that time.

"Improving the relationship between the RFU and the professional clubs has been very important for us, and Rob has been instrumental in that process.

"Rob has delivered an English solution to an English challenge, and the strong relationship between the RFU and the professional clubs should provide the basis for sustained success over the course of the coming years."

Andrew played in 71 Tests for England and five as a British and Irish Lion, while Newcastle won the Premiership in 1998 with Andrew at the helm.

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