The 42-year-old Chester, who left Trinity seven weeks ago, fills the role that was made vacant when Garreth Carvell’s tenure as director of rugby came to an end in June, when John Duffy was relieved of his duties as head coach.
Duffy’s assistant Kurt Haggerty took charge on a temporary basis for the last 14 matches of the season but must wait to see if there is a place for him in the new-look team in the Championship.
Chester will take up his role with immediate effect on a two-year, full-time contract and will be given a remit to appoint the backroom team and sign players.
Leigh owner Derek Beaumont said: “I am delighted to bring Chris to our club.
“He is a fantastic bloke who is vastly experienced in the game, from playing to coaching both at Hull KR and over a prolonged period in a tough seat at Wakefield, where he has not had the luxury of budgets afforded to other coaches in the game.
“His knowledge of players at all levels and dealing with agents will be significant in what he can bring to the club.
“I had previously spoken to Kurt and declared also in a public forum that I was bringing in a high profile NRL coach that would have been my biggest single investment in an individual in my time at the club.
“That person was unable to secure a release, having initially been advised he could and therefore it was back to the drawing board.
“Having had lengthy discussions with Chris about various aspects, I am fully confident that I can give him full autonomy to make the right decisions over the whole rugby department from coaches and backroom staff to the recruitment of players and to deal with all matters rugby related.”
Chester made 230 Super League appearances for Halifax, Wigan, Hull and Hull KR before embarking on a coaching career that saw him take Rovers to Wembley.
Chester said: “This is a role that really excites me. Leigh Centurions is a big club and, with the restructure plans for the game of rugby league, there are exciting times ahead for this club.
“Since leaving Wakefield I’ve had time to reflect and recharge my batteries and this role gives me an opportunity to build something really strong.
“I will get the right people involved, as players and staff, to ensure the club fulfils its great potential.”