Cotton, who played in 32 matches for England between 1971 and 1981, has been appointed as the Rugby Football Union's new management board vice- chairman with responsibility for playing.
England achieved the Triple Crown in last season's Five Nations' Championship under Jack Rowell and how the national team manager will view Cotton's appointment remains to be seen. There was some tension between the two when Cottons, as the Lions manager, demanded the instant release of Mike Catt from England's tour of Argentina.
Cotton has been given the job of creating a strategic plan for the national side and its management and will work with teams at national and other representative levels. In addition, he must build on the working relationships with the other unions in the northern hemisphere.
The move gives Cotton, who was a strong supporter of Cliff Brittle during the elections for board chairman, the role and level of influence he has been seeking. He now looks very much the power behind the throne.
"I'm delighted with the appointment and my aim is to offer as much support and advice as possible to the development of rugby at national, senior clubs and grass roots level," Cotton said. "It's imperative that we continue to make progress against the southern hemisphere sides during the build- up the 1999 World Cup and I am confident that this can be achieved."
Sir Michael Stear is the new management board vice-chairman in charge of administration at the RFU. Stear's new duties include working with the RFU's three new directors, political lobbying and co-ordinating the work of the RFU's committees and advisory panels.
Brittle, the manager board's chairman, said: "The appointments reflect the RFU's aim of providing additional support both at the playing and administrative levels of the game.
"We have already started to deliver our objectives, which we discussed at the AGM in July, and I look forward to a united and prosperous future for the sport."Reuse content