Scottish Rugby president Ian Rankin has been impressed by how quickly Vern Cotter has earned the respect of the Scotland players and he also expects more young talent to come through at international level in the coming years thanks to the BT Sport academies that are being put in place in 2015.
Rankin took over the role of president last August and since then has spent a lot of time in the company of Scotland head coach Cotter and director of rugby Scott Johnson. He watched on from the stands in November as Scotland defeated Argentina and Tonga and ran New Zealand close and he believes that Cotter has had a big part to play in the national side’s upturn in fortunes.
Rankin said: “He has earned the respect of the players very quickly and that is something that is not easy. Respect must always be earned and not expected, but with the way in which Vern goes about his jobs I think the players have taken to him straight away.
“He really sets out a simple, honest game plan to work from which I think players like and they are also enjoying the way they are being asked to play. If you can get the players smiling then that is part of the battle, while there is no doubt that you certainly know where you stand with Vern.”
Rankin is relishing the RBS Six Nations which kick off next month, but he knows that it will not be easy with the other Northern Hemisphere sides having also shown glimpses of good form during the autumn.
“Ireland are playing pretty well, England played up against all the big countries and came up pretty close while Wales had a bit of a rough time of it at times, but are still very capable of playing some great rugby,” he stated. “France are still unpredictable while Italy are constantly improving and as a result it will not be an easy ride, but it never will be. I think it will be a very competitive Six Nations and the great thing for me is the desire the Scottish public has for coming to BT Murrayfield and seeing the team play.
“The tickets for the Ireland match sold out very quickly and the fact that the guys are now scoring tries and playing with a quick tempo has got people really interested and wanting to be a part of it.”
In a bid to help more talent make it into the professional game, Scottish Rugby has put a large amount of money into the BT Sport academies which are due to be up and running this summer. Rankin feels the managers of these academies in the Borders, Caledonia, East and West will have big roles to play.
“The managers in these areas will bring everything together and from there the best young talent should come through,” he said. “It’s a really exciting initiative and can only enhance the national team and our game in general in years to come.”
Rankin sees a lot of progress being made in the links between Glasgow and Edinburgh and the clubs and he hopes this can continue. He feels the pro draft that the BT Premiership clubs use is working better than ever while, as a former club coach himself, he has been delighted to see a number of club players being given game time with the Warriors and Edinburgh “A”.
Rankin also reiterated his commitment to help the club game continue to grow that he made when he took up office. “I thought I knew before I took this role just how much hard work went in at clubs up and down the country to make sure that they are run properly and that teams are out every week, but even I have been amazed by the level of commitment put in by all volunteers,” he explained.
“We have to support the clubs, it is simple, that is where all of our players come from. We have worked hard to try and provide money to clubs to help with facilities and going forward the clubs must continue to receive support because they are the ones helping grow the game from the bottom up.
“In the last few months I have managed to get out to many clubs and to be honest the further down you go in terms of league the more hard work you see being put in. Of course there are challenges facing the club game, but I often come back from these trips refreshed and they leave me optimistic for the future and clear in my own mind that things are heading in the right direction.”