John Steele leaves post as RFU chief executive

Rugby Football Union chief executive John Steele has left his post.

Steele had come under pressure after the RFU's chaotic search for a new elite performance director.

He removed overall responsibility for the senior England team from the job description, seemingly to block the possible return of 2003 World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward.

But that decision was reversed following an emergency meeting of the RFU board.

Woodward, currently director of sport at the British Olympic Association and deputy chef de mission for Team GB in London 2012, subsequently said he was not interested in a return to rugby union.

Former England captain Fran Cotton, who managed the British and Irish Lions during their series win over South Africa in 1997, called for Steele to resign over the confusion.

Steele, who took charge at Twickenham on 6 September 2010, admitted the search had not been conducted as he would have liked.

But the former chief executive of UK Sport insisted that the speculation and criticism around the performance director role was out of proportion.

The RFU is in disarray again. It's been a PR disaster for the last three or four weeks

Alastair Eykyn, 5 live rugby union commentator

He vowed to ride out the pressure, telling BBC Sport on 31 May: "People who know me will tell you, when I set my mind to do something, as I have here, I will see it through."

The RFU board gave Steele their full support but set up a review of how the elite performance director recruitment process was handled.

That process ultimately led to him parting company with English rugby union's governing body following an emergency board meeting on Thursday evening at which he suffered a vote of no confidence.

A statement issued by the RFU on Friday read: "The board of directors can confirm that John Steele has left the union with immediate effect.

"There is nothing more we can add while discussions are ongoing and we will update further as we are able."

After Thursday's board meeting, which went on until 0100 BST on Friday, it was felt by both parties that he could no longer continue in his role and the RFU are currently meeting to agree the terms of Steele's exit.

A scheduled RFU council meeting taking place on Friday is sure to be an acrimonious one as the management board, led by chairman Martyn Thomas, attempt to explain the events that have left Twickenham in turmoil.

Former England skipper Will Carling said he was "stunned" by the news of Steele's departure.

"It just seems that we don't learn the lessons in the RFU," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

"They appoint John Steele to change the structure of the RFU, to get it focused and to get it delivering success for English rugby.

"You appoint a guy, you have got to allow him to see that through. He has made some strategic appointments from what I hear and things are going well.

"He has made a mistake in changing the brief of the performance director but certain key individuals have got completely obsessed with the appointment of this [position]."

Steele, enjoyed a successful playing career with Northampton before becoming their director of rugby.

His coaching career culminated in leading Saints to Heineken Cup glory in 2000, and he later became Northampton's executive director.

Steele, a former Royal Artillery officer, became chief executive of UK Sport in 2005.