World Rugby has appointed Nigel Cass as competitions director as part of a restricting of the rugby functions of the international federation.
Cass will join the governing body in November to head a new competitions department.
The department will be responsible for the implementation of a new competitions strategy, which World Rugby says will ensure its men’s and women’s competitions outside of the Rugby World Cup best serve union high performance requirements.
World Rugby say the department will ensure commercial revenue is maximised for reinvestment in the sport.
Cass has worked at the highest level of rugby event management for over 20 years with New Zealand Rugby.
He worked on both the Men’s Rugby World Cup in 2011 and preparations for next year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup, as well as the New Zealand round of the World Rugby Sevens Series and the World Rugby U20 Championship in 2014.
He has also led New Zealand Rugby’s hosting of international competitions, including The Rugby Championship and Super Rugby, and domestic competitions in his native New Zealand.
“Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the honour it has been to work within rugby in New Zealand,” Cass said.
“The game holds a special place for New Zealanders, and to be able to contribute has been a privilege I have never taken for granted.
“The international game faces some unique opportunities and challenges at the moment and I am really looking forward to getting on board at World Rugby to help the team there work through these alongside national unions and regions.
“The current COVID-19 disruption offers opportunities to rethink how our competitions can excite and engage players and fans moving forward, and I am excited to be contributing to this important work.”
Cass takes up the role with Mark Egan having confirmed his intention earlier this year to leave the organisation.
Egan has worked at World Rugby for 18 years and served as head of competitions and performance.
World Rugby say Egan has been responsible for the transformation and success of its competitions, including exponential growth of rugby sevens, as well as high performance and competition strategies that have elevated the performances of emerging nations at successive Rugby World Cups.
Egan has been at the centre of advising on the restructure, assisting with recruitment, and will remain involved in a consultant capacity through to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“I have enjoyed every moment of my career at World Rugby,” Egan said.
“It has been a fantastic journey and I feel incredibly proud and privileged to have worked for the organisation during a period of significant change and growth.
“We constantly strive to do the very best for the game, and over the past 18 years I have had the pleasure of working with many inspirational administrators, coaches, match officials and players who are the backbone of our sport and central to its continued growth and success.
“I leave knowing that, as a family, we have achieved a lot together and that despite the challenges that we currently face, the sport is well placed to move forward and make even greater advances on and off the field.
“I would like to thank everyone who has been a part of the journey and supported me in my role, particularly my colleagues at World Rugby and our member unions.”
The restructure will reportedly ensure close alignment of the competitions, Rugby World Cup, commercial, broadcast and marketing functions under chief operating officer and Rugby World Cup managing director Alan Gilpin.
World Rugby say the structure will ensure that World Rugby is positioned to optimise a competition strategy that focuses on fan and revenue growth as well as high performance outcomes.
A new Rugby and High Performance Department will be put in place as part of the restructure.
The department will be responsible for the high performance, match officials and technical services functions.
Head of technical services Mark Harrington will lead the transition of the restructure while the recruitment for a director of rugby and high performance is completed.
“While we are sad to see Mark leave after such an impactful career with World Rugby, we can all be very proud of what he has achieved over the years and grateful that he agreed to stay on beyond his scheduled departure to oversee the implementation of key COVID-19 response initiatives, including calendar discussions,” said Brett Gosper, World Rugby chief executive.
“Mark has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the game, from transforming our high performance competitions and fighting the cause of the emerging nations to ensure increases in competitiveness at successive men’s Rugby World Cups, to the development of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, which led to our Olympic inclusion, and of course a spectacular debut at Rio 2016.
“It is fitting that as someone whose administrative journey began with sevens and who lived in Japan as a player, that he should finish his World Rugby journey at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“Nigel is an experienced and proven operator at the highest level of the sport and will bring great passion, innovation and knowledge to the new role of competitions director at a pivotal time for the sport as we look to ensure sustainable growth beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He impressed during a highly-competitive process, is well known and respected by unions and World Rugby staff, a great cultural fit, and we look forward to his leadership of a new competitions department.
“This restructure has been carefully considered to enable World Rugby to be in the best possible position to support a rapidly-growing and evolving sport.
“The formation of a new Rugby and High Performance Department, reflects our desire to ensure from decision-making to implementation, we are creating an even greater empathy and understanding of the modern on-field rugby environment, to drive a stronger, simpler, more attractive and safer game for all.”