Conor O'Shea joins RFU as Director of Performance Rugby as Nigel Melville leaves similar role

Former Italy and Harlequins head coach Conor O’Shea has joined the Rugby Football Union (RFU) as the Director of Performance Rugby.

O’Shea’s appointment follows the news that Nigel Melville will be leaving a similar role.

The 49-year-old left Italy after the World Cup after four years in charge of the Azzurri. 

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“I am privileged and honoured and it is an incredible opportunity to join at a really exciting time for English rugby,” O’Shea said.

“I’ve spent the last four years in Italy, six years at Harlequins and before that 10 years at London Irish, so I feel I know the system pretty well.

“The good times, the bad times, winning things and being competitive, so I can relate to the people and challenges that happen within our system. I have learned a huge amount internationally in the last few years as well.”

O’Shea will be responsible for the leadership, management and strategic direction of the professional game in England, including managing the playing, coaching and officiating pathways.

He will report to RFU CEO Bill Sweeney and work closely with England head coach Eddie Jones, though Jones will continue to report directly to Sweeney and retain responsibility of the England team.

O’Shea will also oversee performance rugby operations which include the management around the Professional Game Agreement, Greene King IPA Championship, Tyrrells Premier 15s, Rugby Players Association, medical governance and player welfare, sports science, anti-doping and competition frameworks in a wide-ranging remit.

Melville departs to pursue other opportunities after joining the RFU in July 2016.

He served as interim CEO before Sweeney was appointed on a permanent basis earlier this year.

Sweeney commented on Melville’s departure: “On behalf of everyone at the RFU, I would like to thank Nigel for his valuable contribution to the organisation and to England Rugby. His professionalism and knowledge of rugby and sport is outstanding and he will be missed. In particular, I am grateful for the support that he has given to me since I joined. He leaves with our very best wishes for the future.”

“I am proud of all that the organisation has achieved over the last three years during some challenging times,” Melville said.

“I believe that England Rugby is in a great place and that leaving after the 2019 Rugby World Cup is the right time as the RFU start a new era and prepare for the next Rugby World Cup cycle.”

O’Shea’s appointment follows the news that Alan Dickens and Jonathan Pendlebury have been installed as head coaches of the men’s U20 and U18 team respectively.