EDINBURGH interim coaches Steve Scott and Duncan Hodge may have moved a step closer to full-time positions with the club due to leading candidates from south of the border having turned down the post.
The Scotsman understands that Bryan Redpath and his former assistant, Carl Hogg, were both approached for the Edinburgh head coaching position as SRU chief executive Mark Dodson seeks to respond to criticism and promote Scottish coaches within the Scottish game. But Redpath is believed to have has opted to remain with Sale Sharks and Hogg with Gloucester in the Aviva Premiership.
Dodson has been looking at a host of candidates who have applied for either the Edinburgh job or that of Scotland coach, a list believed to include former Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan. Dodson may now be looking at a mix of external coaches with home-bred candidates, which would put Scott and Hodge in the frame.
On the eve of Edinburgh’s last game of the season, against the Newport Gwent Dragons at Murrayfield tonight, Hodge evaded the question of whether he would prefer to remain as No 2 with Edinburgh next season or return to his SRU role.
There, he operated as an assistant with Scotland, specialising in kicking and back play, and also worked with both the Scottish professional clubs and the national age-grade squads.
“That’s for discussions elsewhere,” he said. “I have a year left on my contract with the SRU. Both jobs are different. You would [want the Edinburgh job], but you’d also want the Scotland job. You want everything and it’s not about what I want. It’s about what’s best for the SRU and what’s best for Edinburgh.
“It is still being discussed and I’m assuming there will be announcements soon. I’ve loved what I’ve been doing for the last seven or eight weeks, and I’ve loved my Scotland stuff, too. It’s uncertain for a lot of people right now.”
Since retiring as a player nearly a decade ago, Hodge has coached Watsonians and worked his way through the SRU ranks, developing his kicking and skills coaching into a wider remit including attack, defence and tactics.
While he has enjoyed the past eight weeks working full-time with a professional club, he would not be drawn further on whether he would like to remain in the Edinburgh role or revert to his previous wide-ranging one across the SRU.
He has, however, made an impact on players, with full-back Greig Tonks, Edinburgh’s Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year award-winner for this season, insisting that Hodge had brought a clarity to the team’s back play in the past few games.
“They [Scott and Hodge] have brought a lot of positive elements of Scottish play from the national team into our play, and the boys have responded well to it,” said Tonks.
“They know what they’re doing and, particularly for me, with Hodgey being a back, he knows what we need to do where, and in what areas of the field we need to play, is good tactically, and I think the guys have recognised that and are trying to play a bit smarter really.
“I wouldn’t see there was a big improvement or change to Michael [Bradley]. Every coach is just different. Michael’s take was different to Stevie and Hodgey, and sometimes it’s just good to have a change when things haven’t been going right on the park.
“Now, all the focus is on finishing the season well and, hopefully, we can win and it can help the cases of the coaches to get the jobs full-time.”
As the curtain comes down on Edinburgh’s dismal season, so it will also fall on the career of the club’s record appearance holder, Allan Jacobsen. The 34-year-old has been handed a final starting berth to mark the end of a 16-year career which has yielded 285 club appearances and 65 caps.
The club have arranged a host of initiatives to create a memorable send-off for the long-serving stalwart and the others including Netani Talei, who will leave this summer. They include a free extra ticket for every season ticket holder, “Chunk” masks online to download, cut-price meals before the 7.45pm kick-off and a special prize for the fan clothed in the most club colours.
Jacobsen admitted: “It is beginning to sink in now with my final team run, that this is it – the end. I’m sure it will be an emotional occasion but we have a game to win and that’s the most important thing.”
Jacobsen is rejoined in the front row by South African Willem Nel, while Dundee High FP back-row Richie McIver is handed the chance to make his first professional appearance since being invited to train with the squad last month.
The Dragons make only one change to the team which beat Munster at Rodney Parade in their last outing, full-back Dan Evans returning from injury. New British and Irish Lions Toby Faletau and Dan Lydiate remain in the team along with skipper Andrew Coombs and Tom Prydie, who will tour with Wales to Japan this summer.
Edinburgh cannot improve on tenth place in the league, but the 11th-placed Dragons will be aiming to claim a bonus-point win and deprive the hosts of anything to at least finish level on points. If the players do wish the SRU to keep Scott and Hodge in the coaching make-up, they have one final opportunity to prove that can at least perform far better than their league placing would suggest.
Edinburgh: 15 G Tonks, 14 D Fife, 13 N De Luca, 12 M Scott, 11 T Visser, 10 H Leonard, 9 G Laidlaw (capt); 1 A Jacobsen, 2 R Ford, 3 W Nel, 4 S Cox, 5 G Gilchrist, 6 S McInally, 7 H Watson, 8 N Talei. Subs: 16 S Lawrie, 17 R Hislop, 18 G Cross, 19 P Parker, 20 R McIver, 21 S Kennedy, 22 P Francis, 23 T Brown.
Dragons: 15 D Evans, 14 T Prydie, 13 R Wardle, 12 L Robling, 11 T Chavhanga, 10 S Jones, 9 J Evans; 1 A Coundley, 2 H Gustafson, 3 N Buck, 4 A Coombs (capt), 5 R Sidoli, 6 D Lydiate, 7 N Cudd, 8 T Faletau. Subs: 16 S Parry, 17 O Evans, 18 T Ryan, 19 A Jones, 20 I Jones, 21 W Evans, 22 P Leach, 23 H Amos.