SCOTLAND are to hold talks with Clermont Auvergne in the coming days in an effort to persuade the French club to release Vern Cotter early, but SRU chief executive Mark Dodson insists he has no qualms about waiting a year for the New Zealander.
Cotter, the next Scotland head coach, will be at Murrayfield today for a first media briefing since he was finally confirmed in the job, but, after weeks of speculation, there remains an unease that he is not yet available to take up the position.
Clermont Auvergne chief executive Jacques Pineau was quoted yesterday as saying that he had never spoken to nor had any approach from the SRU but accepted Cotter’s decision to leave France when his contract comes to an end in June 2014.
Dodson said: “We always knew Vern wasn’t available until 2014, that he was contracted to Clermont until then, but we felt he was the best man for the job. If he can be persuaded to come earlier than that and if Clermont are prepared to release him, we will be delighted to have him, but we are banking, planning, on the fact that he is going to join us on June 1, 2014.
“I don’t think it’s a financial issue. It’s about the way we wanted to do our business – we honour a person’s contract. We have a situation where we went into this process fully aware he was contracted until 2014, but, if you want the very best in the world, you sometimes have to wait for them and we believe this is the right man to lead us right through to the next World Cup.”
As for the statement from Clermont that Dodson had not approached the club directly, leaving him open to accusations of “tapping-up” a coach without his club’s permission – not against regulations in rugby, but clearly not honourable either – Dodson insisted: “That is not the case. The club have been aware of our discussions.
“Vern wished to conduct those discussions with his own club president and we respected that, so, yes, we have had no formal discussions with Clermont Auvergne yet, but we were looking at Vern’s availability once his contract with Clermont Auvergne ended, and not before.
“However, now that he has agreed to come here, Clermont’s season is over and it is public knowledge that he is joining us, we will discuss his situation with his club and see if there is any possibility that they might wish to release him earlier than June, 2014. If they do not wish to, then we are happy to wait until next summer to have the man that we want as Scotland’s new head coach.
“I reiterate that we went into this process believing that he was not available until June 2014 and we decided that we could wait until then if necessary to secure the coach that we wanted. Sometimes it pays to be patient.”
Former Scotland captain Jason White, who played under Cotter for three years at Clermont, believes the SRU are right to be patient, insisting that the New Zealander is worth waiting for.
“He will be under the same pressure as anyone else to get results and this job will be different to coaching a club side with a big budget,” said White, “but my gut instinct is that he will be successful with Scotland and, while it’s not an ideal situation to be in, having to wait a year for a coach, he is a coach that could make a real difference to Scotland in different ways.”