IRFU chief executive Philip Browne has announced that he will step down from his role at the end of the current year and retire.

Browne joined the IRFU in 1992 and assumed the role of chief executive in 1998, helping to steer the union through the move from amateur status to professionalism.

The Dubliner, whose sporting background was in rowing, took the reigns of the IRFU at a time when Irish international rugby was in the doldrums and he was instrumental in the Irish provinces joining what was then known as the Celtic League.

"It has long been my intention to retire from the role of Chief Executive to coincide with reaching the age of 60," Browne said.

"I delayed my decision, given the recent extraordinary pressures on Irish rugby, as a result of the Covid pandemic.

"I now believe we are at a point where it is possible to commence plotting a sustainable route out of the pandemic and engage in a structured approach to future longer-term planning.

"It has been a privilege to serve as chief executive and while undoubtedly it has been a pressurised and challenging role it has, in equal measure, been a truly exciting and rewarding career."

Kevin Potts, chief operating officer of the IRFU, will take over from Browne on an interim basis while the organisation searches for a permanent replacement.