Rugby Union: RFU calls in head-hunters for Twickenham appointment

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The Rugby Football Union has appointed a leading recruitment firm to help find Twickenham's first chief executive. The London-based Heidrick and Struggles will work alongside the RFU, and its recently appointed interviewing panel, a group that includes Cliff Brittle, the management board chairman, Fran Cotton, the national playing committee vice-chairman, and Nigel Wray, Saracens' owner.

The new arrival, who will probably start work in January, succeeds Tony Hallett, the acting chief executive who resigned three months ago after English rugby's bitter feud between clubs and RFU ended.

"The appointment of a highly qualified chief executive is key to our future plans," Brittle said. "The person we select will be an experienced and and successful senior manager in business, capable of playing a pivotal role in managing and developing what is now a major business in its own right."

Mark Regan, the axed England hooker, has an immediate chance to prove Clive Woodward, the England coach, wrong when he lines up for Bath against Tonga tonight.

Regan missed out on England recognition behind his club colleague Andrew Long and Leicester rival Richard Cockerill against Australia at Twickenham this weekend. He packs down in a Bath eight, which includes internationals Kevin Yates and John Mallett in the front row, the lock Martin Haag, the flanker Eric Peters and the No 8 Steve Ojomoh.

The game is Tonga's final warm-up fixture before they tackle Wales at Swansea on Sunday.

Southern hemisphere unions are planning action to halt the drain of leading players to northern hemisphere clubs after a meeting of officials from South Africa, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand in Buenos Aires over the weekend.

"The matter will be given top priority," Rian Oberholzer, chief executive of the South African Rugby Football Union, said yesterday on his return from the meeting. "We will be holding in-depth discussions to devise mechanisms to keep top players in their home countries."

Argentina and South Africa have been particularly hard hit by departures. Garry Pagel, the Springbok prop, joined Northampton earlier this month, while the new South African coach, Nick Mallett, had three meetings with the international lock Fritz van Heerden to try to dissuade him from joining Leicester. Mallett failed.

The pair joined a steady haemorrhaging of South African talent. Francois Pienaar and Joel Stransky left for England a year ago and among other South African internationals playing in Europe are the loose forward Rudolf Straeuli, the hooker John Allan and the full-back Gavin Johnson.

SARFU have already said anyone playing in the northern hemisphere will not be considered for international selection. They also considered enforcing a 180-day qualification period before allowing Van Heerden to turn out for Leicester. The rule is laid down in International Rugby Football Board regulations on player movements.