MARTYN THOMAS has stepped down as chairman of the Rugby Football Union.

The move followed a four-hour meeting of the RFU Council at Twickenham after discussing a review panel’s 52-page verdict on the organisation’s hiring and firing of its former chief executive John Steele.

Thomas, though, will continue as acting chief executive at Twickenham, chairman of Rugby World Cup 2015 – which will be staged in England – and as an RFU representative on the International Rugby Board.

The 58-man council have decided that Oxfordshire RFU council member Paul Murphy will serve as interim chairman, pending a Special General Meeting when Thomas’ permanent replacement will be decided.

The RFU later confirmed in a statement that Thomas had stepped down as chairman, with Murphy taking over the role on an interim basis.

Thomas will continue in the role of acting chief executive following Steele’s departure.

Thomas said: “This was a difficult day for the Union but at the end of the day this does now mean we can finally move on. I would like to thank Council for their support both in terms of me continuing as acting CEO and in my other roles.

“The most important thing was that we maintained stability for staff and our other partners and in the coming weeks I will be ensuring that we navigate to calmer waters and that we can get on with our core purpose of rugby.

“With RWC2011 upon us we have something to look forward to and I will ensure Martin (Johnson) and his team have all the support they need to be successful in New Zealand.”

Murphy, who will hold his role until a Special General Meeting can be arranged to appoint a new chairman, praised Blackett’s panel for the manner in which they had handled their review.

He said “We were concerned that the reputation of the RFU had been damaged by the recent events which were played out so vividly in the media.

“We wanted to ensure that we put in place an independent panel capable of undertaking a comprehensive and expert review of what took place so we could learn lessons for the future and take the first step forward towards rebuilding that reputation.

“I would commend the members of the panel because that is exactly what we received. Their report was based on detailed evidence, was thorough and gave clear recommendations.”