AUSTRALIAN coach Scott Johnson has quit the Ospreys early, but still has no plans to move into his new post with the Scotland management team before the due date in June.
The director of coaching at the Welsh region informed the club in December that he would be leaving at the end of the season and confirmed that he had taken up an offer from Andy Robinson, Scotland’s head coach, to join his coaching team. It was stated that Johnson would link up at Murrayfield as a senior assistant coach, with a mentoring role, once his contract with the Ospreys ended in May, but the club announced yesterday that they had agreed to sever ties with Johnson and head coach Sean Holley this week, and install Steve Tandy as their new chief.
Johnson, who was struck down by viral encephalitis in April 2010 and has since struggled with an illness that causes inflammation of the brain, stated that he would head back to his native Australia rather than join up with Scotland in the current RBS Six Nations Championship.
He said: “After talking through the issues facing the business with the Board, we’ve come to a decision that is for the good of the organisation as a whole, which means that I’ll be giving up my post with immediate effect. I was brought in to do a job for the Ospreys, with a particular remit to help set up systems that would enable us to bring through home-grown talent, coaches and players, and we agree that I’m leaving an organisation that is now better equipped to deal with the challenging times that lie ahead for all the Welsh regions.
“When I informed the board in December that I wouldn’t be renewing my contract, I made the offer to stand down at that time, but they felt that it would be better for the organisation if I remained in office to help provide some stability during what was inevitably going to be something of a transitional period.
“Since then, we’ve been in constant dialogue and, six weeks down the line, we’ve agreed that the time is right for me to move on, so we’ve shaken hands and I’m walking away early from the remainder of my contract.
“I’ll leave with only happy memories from my time with the Ospreys and I’ve made some great mates for life among the business. The next few months will allow me to head back to Australia to catch up with my family and to get over the illness that I’ve suffered with over the last two years, before taking up the post with Scotland at the end of the season.”
Former Ospreys flanker Tandy, whose final game was against Edinburgh in 2010, moves back to the club after cutting his teeth in coaching with Bridgend and working as a technical coach with Holley, and takes over as head coach from Holley immediately, with forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys remaining in place.
Meanwhile, the Welsh Rugby Union has made an intriguing new move to form a representative team of the best players in their club game for a one-off fixture against Georgia. The initiative is an effort to build bridges between the amateur and pro games, and also support the IRB’s push for more match experience for second tier nations.
Scottish club sides have joined their Welsh Principality counterparts in competing in the British and Irish Cup, but, as in Scotland, the traditional club rugby continues to struggle to drive up crowds and sponsor interest, and provide an effective nursery for the pro and international players of the future.
The Welsh Rugby Union has announced that a representative team of players from the 14 Premiership teams will face a Georgian XV at the Brewery Field in Bridgend on 27 March. The match will also provide a step-up for ambitious coaches with Simon King of Aberavon appointed head coach and Lyndon Lewis from Llandovery and Greg Woods of Cross Keys his assistants.
Wales dropped their club international team after a handful of games in 2008, and only Scotland, Ireland and France currently award international caps to club players. This may provide a stepping stone to Wales returning to the popular club initiative and could lead to the revival of the match with Scotland played once in 2008, as well as Ireland and France.
Scotland, meanwhile, pulled together a side of fringe full internationalists to play Japan two years ago at Murrayfield, and Currie, as Scottish Premier One Champions, also took up the invitation to play the Japanese. It was not ideal timing for the pros or for Currie, but with a variety of unions across the globe desperate for more regular matches against British sides, the Welsh approach may provide food for thought for Scottish rugby.
Similar invitations to tier two nations like Georgia, who are becoming more competitive through their World Cup exploits, could allow club district teams and the Scotland club side to again host touring squads and further the injection of fresh excitement to the club game.