AFTER insisting his role with Scotland was a short-term affair and ruling out a permanent return to coaching, Dean Ryan has been revealed as the new director of rugby at Worcester.
The former England back row, and Bristol and Gloucester coach, has spent most of the past four years as a Sky pundit, after parting company with the Cherry and Whites. But he accepted an approach from Scott Johnson, the interim Scotland coach, to help out through the recent RBS Six Nations Championship and efforts were made by Johnson and SRU chief executive Mark Dodson to persuade Ryan to remain longer-term.
However, Ryan stayed true to a promise to his family on taking up the three-month assignment that he would revert to his former life at the tournament end and turned down their offer. Prior to his final game with Scotland in Paris, he insisted that even victory and a potential second-place finish in the championship would not persuade him to change his mind and stay on. “It’s still the same situation. It’s disrespectful to speculate about anything else. I’ve got to go back to work [with Sky]. That’s the agreement we had.
“I’ve always been here only for the Six Nations. I have loved my time here. I’m humbled they have allowed me to come in and prepare them for Test matches. It’s been fantastic.”
He stressed then that his priority was his wife and young child, and hinted that he could not be bothered with the politics involved with owners running Premiership clubs and the fact that coaches are rarely given a decent length of time to make a difference in the modern game. The Sky job, clearly, was safer and allowed him more family time.
However, Ryan has surprised many by deciding now that he will, after all, quit his Sky role after this summer’s British and Irish Lions tour and return to the day-to-day business of running an English Premiership club.
It is understood that Ryan was approached by Worcester after the Six Nations Championship came to an end last month and that a combination of his enjoyment of coaching with Scotland and the impression left on him by Worcester owner Cecil Duckworth, had persuaded the 46-year-old and his wife that a return to the chalk-face would be a good move.
The departing coach, Richard Hill, has made eight new signings, including fly-half Paul Warwick from Stade Francais, former Exeter playmaker Ignacio Mieres and Montpellier forward Agustin Creevy. But there will also be some high-profile exits this summer with England prop Matt Mullan and goal-kicker Andy Goode moving to Wasps, England squad flanker Matt Kvesic joining Gloucester and full-back Errie Claassens being snapped up by another ex-Scotland coach in Andy Robinson at Bristol.
Worcester are free of relegation this season, with London Welsh’s demise confirmed at the weekend, but they can finish no higher than ninth and Ryan is viewed as a figure able to drive them into Premiership contention, in the manner in which he developed a young Gloucester side into title contenders.
Bill Bolsover, chairman of Worcester’s rugby committee, said: “Richard was brought into Worcester Warriors to get us promoted back to the Premiership, which he successfully achieved. We then wanted to consolidate our position amongst the elite before breaking out of the bottom four. Despite all his hard work, effort, attention to detail and honesty, we have not continued the forward momentum.”
Back at Murrayfield, Dodson never believed that Ryan would remain north of the Border and is still considering whether there is a place for Johnson in the management set-up looking ahead to the 2015 World Cup. For his part, Johnson is considering his future with Scotland and it remains doubtful whether he would remain as head coach even if the SRU are of a mind to offer him the job through to the World Cup.
Dodson is looking for a new director of rugby for the Scottish game, and Johnson is in the frame for that, but The Scotsman understands that there are also offers on the table from Johnson’s native Australia for him to return there and work again at international level or with one of the Super Rugby franchises, which he is mulling over.