HEAD coach Vern Cotter has cemented his commitment to Scotland by agreeing a contract extension ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
The 53-year-old New Zealander, who is currently preparing the national squad for the tournament in England which begins next month, has added an extra year to a deal which was due to expire at the end of next year’s Six Nations Championship.
There are some talented players with some things to develop, and together we are focused on facing that challenge in what I think are exciting times for Scottish rugby all overVern Cotter
Cotter agreed to become Scotland coach in May 2013 but, after the SRU and his club Clermont Auvergne failed to agree a release he saw out the final year of his contract with the French club before arriving in Scotland 12 months later.
He led the Scots to three wins out of four on last year’s summer tour of the Americas and South Africa and two out of three in the autumn Test series but then suffered the disappointment of losing all five games in the RBS Six Nations.
Despite this, the SRU has placed its faith in the coach and agreed to extend his stay at BT Murrayfield to 2017. Cotter said: “I’m really happy to be able to continue working with the players, the organisation, the board, and everyone involved. There are some talented players with some things to develop, and together we are focused on facing that challenge in what I think are exciting times for Scottish rugby all over.
“There’s a generation of players coming all the way from the new BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academies, Scotland under-20s and the pro clubs into the national team and I’m pleased to be part of that.”
Cotter will today name his team to play Ireland in Dublin on Saturday – the first of four World Cup warm-up matches. Scotland’s opening match in the World Cup takes place against Japan on 23 September in Gloucester before further Pool B clashes against the United States, South Africa and Samoa.
The timing of the contract announcement may take some by surprise, coming as it does after a Wooden Spoon and ahead of a World Cup in which the outcome for Scotland is difficult to predict.
At last weekend’s annual general meeting SRU chief executive Mark Dodson acknowledged that the Six Nations whitewash had been “unacceptable” but gave Cotter strong support going into the World Cup, where Scotland will look to at least qualify for the quarter-finals after failing to do so for the first time ever at the last tournament in New Zealand four years ago.
Despite the drawn-out saga which unfolded, the SRU was delighted when Cotter, who led Clermont to a French title and regular appearances in the latter stages of the Heineken Cup, agreed to succeed Andy Robinson. Yesterday’s development further illustrates the governing body’s belief that they have the right man to take Scotland forward on the international stage.
Dodson said: “I am very pleased we will be extending Vern’s role as Scotland head coach for a further year.
“When we recruited him he was the outstanding candidate for the role and that view has not changed.
“The work he is doing with our young, talented squad of players has taken the team forward and we can now deliver continuity for the national team well beyond the Rugby World Cup 2015.”
Immediately after the Six Nations, in which Scotland did perform very well at times, Cotter insisted he was here for the long haul and rubbished reports linking him with a possible move back to French club rugby with Bordeaux.
The Kiwi, who is viewed as a potential future All Blacks coach in his homeland, added yesterday: “The culture of rugby is strong in this country and it’s important that passion is reflected in the performances of the national team.
“We take great pride in the honour that represents and, while it’s pleasing to be in a position to plan longer term, our focus is absolutely fixed on preparing for the Rugby World Cup.”