Bill Beaumont has been appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of the RFU following the union's annual general meeting on Sunday.
The former England captain takes over from Paul Murphy, who becomes the new RFU President in succession to Willie Wildash.
Beaumont said: "I'm very honoured to be appointed Chairman of the RFU.
"I was fortunate enough to captain my country and everything since then has been about putting something back into a game that is important to so many people.
"We all want to make the game as attractive as possible for all the men, women, boys and girls, who want to play and watch at every level.
"The RFU staff and thousands of volunteers face three years of hard work ahead but the legacy of the England hosting Rugby World Cup in 2015 will be enormous and it is our chance to showcase our game throughout the whole country."
Murphy said: "I wish Bill Beaumont all the best as my successor as Chairman.
"He has my total support and I am sure he will bring his great experience to bear and lead the Board as effectively as he did the England team in days gone by.
"We've made enormous strides on and off the pitch in the last six months and I'm sure Bill will lead us forward to realise our full potential over the next few years."
Murphy, 61, takes office having served for six years on the Board of Directors where he chaired both the Governance and the Finance Committees. He represented Oxfordshire on the RFU Council for 16 years.
Beaumont, 60, is a former England and British & Irish Lions captain who has played a major role in the leadership of the domestic and global game since the end of his playing career.
He played for Fylde and Lancashire and won 34 caps between 1975 and 1982, captaining England to a first Grand Slam in 33 years in 1980, when he also led the Lions in South Africa.
He has represented his county on the RFU Council and the RFU on the IRB Council, including a four-year term as vice chairman, and has been a director of the Six Nations and the Rugby World Cup. He is Honorary President of the Wooden Spoon charity and was awarded a CBE for services to rugby union in 2008.