Hallett's exit looks ominous for Rowell

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Tony Hallett's resignation from the post of acting chief executive of the Rugby Football Union was not a surprise, coming in the wake of that of the treasurer, Colin Herridge, who stepped down after last month's annual meeting in London. The last of the old guard is the England coach, Jack Rowell.

The national playing committee, under the chairmanship of the former England captain Bill Beaumont, are holding a series of meetings this month and a decision is expected shortly. Rowell's contract expires on 31 August and the portents for the former Bath coach are not good.

After the embittered outpourings of the last 18 months, Hallett's departure was an amicable affair. The public perception was that there was a clash of personalities between Cliff Brittle, the chairman of the newly constituted management board, and Hallett. Both men denied that it boiled down to that although they admitted there were differences between them.

Hallett said: "Cliff Brittle and I might well have gone on arguing. The unity and the sanctity of the game is far more important."

He came to his decision while on holiday in the United States, but he had spoken at length to Brittle about the alternatives. For the former Royal Navy captain there was only one honourable thing to do: fall on his sword.

"Cliff was elected, I was selected," Hallett said. "I had really made up my mind to go before my holiday. I am sad to go but I know I am leaving the game in good hands. The last six months have been difficult. There were areas of conflict and I was a part of that."

Hallett will not be leaving Twickenham straight away, but the discussions about a successor begin today and Brittle is in no doubt about the sort of replacement he wants. "He will have to be a hard-headed businessman. When this game went professional in 1995 it was still being run by amateurs."

Brittle and the president, Peter Brook, paid tribute to what had been achieved in Hallett's time at Twickenham. Before being appointed secretary in 1995 he spent 16 years on the committee and oversaw the financing and rebuilding of Twickenham.

"That will be a memorial to Tony," Brook said, a sentiment echoed by Brittle who will ask the RFU council to accord Hallett privileged membership which would give him unlimited access to the ground. "He is welcome here any time," Brittle added. "I do not regard Tony's resignation as a victory. Now we must go forward positively."