Nigel Melville will be the next chief executive of USA Rugby, assuming a portfolio that combines the business post with the union’s top technical job.
The former England scrumhalf and past director of rugby at Premiership clubs Wasps and Gloucester will begin when his visa is approved, the union said in a press release. The 45-year-old succeeds Doug Arnot, who departed under a cloud last summer; interim chief executive Steve Griffiths, who had been scheduled to wrap up on November 3, will continue until Mr. Melville comes on board.
The appointment is a surprise in that the Board had previously declared its intention to appoint a “president of rugby operations”, reporting to the CEO. The directors’ September minutes and a recent Sunday Times interview given by chair Kevin Roberts both clearly presented the rugby-oriented position as the more critical of the two posts.
Melville, who also has been a marketing executive for Nike and a management consultant, convinced the Board he possesses the requisite experience for both roles. His principal competition, John Kirwan, has been coach of Italy but lacks the same business pedigree.
“That I have been coaching and working in both the professional and amateur rugby business for over 10 years now has really helped me prepare for this position. In truth, I feel that everything I have done in the past has led me to this, and I am just really excited to get started,” Mr. Melville said in the union’s release.
Mr. Melville and Mr. Kirwan each attended Saturday’s USA-Uruguay match in Palo Alto, California.
The appointment makes good on the first of several priorities identified by Mr. Roberts and his colleagues. Both the chief executive and director of rugby positions have been unsettled much of the year, filled by the interim appointments of Mr. Griffiths and Alan Solomons, respectively, since the old Board’s management committee reluctantly forced Mr. Arnot to resign.
The status of interim coach Peter Thorburn will be determined by Mr. Melville, a USA Rugby representative previously said. Having taken up the post on short notice, after Tom Billups resigned in order to make clear the financial failures of Mr. Arnot and past chairmen Bob Latham and Neal Brendel, the New Zealander made a slow start but finished strongly in qualifying for the 2007 World Cup, and would like to carry on.
“They say good things come in small packages, and in Nigel’s case that is certainly true. He’s a top-notch player, England captain, successful businessman, accomplished leader, and first-class coach – with a burning passion for all things American. Nigel is the right guy at the right time to lead USA Rugby,” Mr. Roberts said in today's release.