John Steele played for Northampton Saints and England A
UK Sport boss John Steele has been named as the new chief executive of the Rugby Football Union.
The former Northampton player and coach succeeds Francis Baron, who is stepping down after 12 years in the role.
Steele said: "I'm looking forward to a big challenge in the sport that I am immensely passionate about."
Steele led Saints to Heineken Cup glory in 2000 before becoming a club director and subsequently leaving to become chief executive of UK Sport in 2005.
Steele will take charge in the autumn after serving a notice period at UK Sport, the body responsible for funding athletes training for the London 2012 Olympics.
He will oversee the administration of English rugby in the build-up to the World Cup on home soil in 2015.
"The decision to move on was an incredibly difficult one," he said. "I am extremely proud of UK Sport for what it has achieved over the past few years, and what I am sure it will go on to achieve.
"However, the next five years will be hugely exciting times for English rugby, culminating in a home World Cup in 2015.
"During this time I will be totally committed to ensuring a legacy is created from the World Cup at both a community and elite level, whilst building on the sound commercial base already created at Twickenham."
Martyn Thomas, chairman of the RFU management board, said: "We are confident that we have captured the best person for the role.
"Throughout the interview John greatly impressed us with his style, knowledge and capabilities across a broad range of areas.
"Nobody was able to match his unique combination of a background in and knowledge of rugby and a high profile administrative role in sport.
"We fully believe he is the right man to take the RFU forward in its next stage of growth as we prepared to host the Rugby World Cup in 2015 and for the legacy beyond that."
Baroness Sue Campbell, chair of UK Sport, added: "While we are all very sad to see John go, we are also very proud that he has got what for him is the job of a lifetime.
"As a rugby man it was too good for him to turn down, and he leaves with the best wishes of everyone at UK Sport."