I imagine more than a few people wondered this week: had Scottish Rugby taken leave of its senses?
This week they announced that Vern Cotter, 51, a New Zealander by birth, and currently the head coach with French Top 14 club Clermont Auvergne, will take the reins of Scotland.
He has been with Clermont Auvergne since 2006, directing them to the French championship in 2010 and a Heineken Cup final earlier this month. Prior to his post in France, Cotter was part of the coaching set-up that steered Canterbury Crusaders to successive Super rugby titles in 2005 and 2006. So far, so good. He’ll be perhaps be familiar with Mark Bennett and Sean Maitland then.
However I must have missed the moment last year when Manchester United announced that David Moyes had been secured to take over from Fergy, but they would have to wait a year until he could finish his business with Everton.
I suppose that illustrates just how unlike Manchester United Scottish Rugby is on the global stage. We got our man, but we can’t have him when we most need him. Yup: he doesn’t take up the post full-time (if international coaching is ever full-time) until the summer of 2014.
This time next year.
Make no mistake, now is the time to rebuild. We have a squad starting to show promise, and 2 years out till the World Cup. Players that could be key for experience (see below) are getting the surgery out of the way now. Time to start putting the plan into action, not just in place.
When Cotter takes over there will be a summer tour of some sort which he may or may not miss, then the Autumn Tests, a solitary Six Nations and, er, that’s it. Scott Johnson will steer until then, with the SRU seemingly unwilling (or unable) to buy Clermont out of the contract. Whip round, anyone?
Seriously though, with the money on the table for the salary couldn’t we find a sponsor to stump up the extra cash?
We no doubt attract plenty of candidates but they are the same Eddie O’ Sullivans we always hear trotted out when there is a vacancy. Yesterday’s men. The ideal men, such as Wayne Smith, Ewen Mackenzie or Todd Blackadder all have eyes on Test-level jobs a little closer to home. Cotter belongs in their company as a future international coach but to secure a proper candidate we have had to take it on his terms – or rather Clermont’s terms.
There have been rumours of leaving early or resignations, but these are just that and denied by the man himself who intends to see out his term in France. Honourable then, but not much use to us till next year except during International Windows – and we know how sniffy the French clubs are about those.
Still, when he arrives – and we hope it’s “when”, and not “sorry I won the double with Clermont and got the All Blacks job” – we wish Vern all the best as head coach of Scotland. As he says in the video below, he’ll need to hit the ground running.
Video courtesy Scottish Rugby
Just as we debate whether or not it is possible to be both stupefied, chuffed and worried all at the same time comes the news that John Barclay, the 41-times-capped Scotland flanker and the only proper openside in the tour party at the moment, will miss Scotland’s tour to South Africa next month.
Barclay underwent surgery on a shoulder injury today, which was sustained during the season. His hospital appointment precedes him joining the Scarlets in the new season.
At this juncture, the SRU have announced, Barclay will not be replaced in the party, which is now 30 strong. It’s quite a big blow given the form he displayed towards the end of the season after being restored to his preferred 7 shirt having spent a fair bit of time doing what we could refer to as the Kelly Brown shuffle. Ironically his chances came as Chris Fusaro – who kept him on the move – got injured. Now both men are on the sidelines and a lot rests on the aforementioned Brown’s shoulders. It might however make the back row selections a little easier, with Beattie and Brown inked in and a straight shootout between Denton and Strokosch for the remaining berth at 6. At least you hope it is at 6.
You could argue it is lunacy not to have a proper fetcher in the team, but with Fusaro and Rennie’s fitness uncertain it seems in this instance, once again, Scotland have little choice.