SEAN Lineen and Scott Johnson were last night being suggested as the likeliest candidates to succeed Andy Robinson as Scotland coach after the Englishman made a dignified exit following the humiliating 21-15 defeat by Tonga at Pittodrie on Saturday.
Lineen and Johnson are both already on the payroll of the SRU – Auckland-born former Scotland international Lineen as head of player acquisition and Australian Johnson as senior assistant coach – and both offer strong credentials to try to rebuild morale ahead of next year’s Six Nations. Lineen was installed as the even-money favourite with Scottish betting firm McBookie.com, with Johnson at 4-1 and former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith a 5-1 shot. Gregor Townsend and Michael Bradley, coaches of Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively, are each quoted at 10-1.
Senior officials at the SRU will sit down this morning and devise a plan to to select the right man to succeed Robinson, whose three-year reign offered occasional flashes of progress but, ultimately, ended in crushing disappointment.
Robinson himself warned there would be consequences of the loss to Tonga, which saw Scotland plunge to 12th in the IRB world rankings, and the next morning a statement from the SRU – circulated to the media at 10.54am – confirmed that the 48-year-old, who was under contract until the 2015 World Cup, had fallen on his sword.
“I am very disappointed by our recent results but I have belief in the players to develop into a winning team,” said Robinson, who was appointed in June 2009 as successor to Frank Hadden. “I believe I have left the team in a better position than when I took over and have great confidence in the players and the coaches for the future.”
In 35 Tests, Robinson oversaw 15 wins and 19 defeats, a win percentage of 42.9 per cent, but his competitive record was woeful. The World Cup in New Zealand aside, two wins in 15 Six Nations matches meant a remarkable turnaround would have been required for Robinson to survive beyond next spring’s tournament.
IT MAY seem like a poisoned chalice to some, but there will be no shortage of rugby coaches throwing their CVs into Murrayfield this week, writes David Ferguson.
The opportunity to prove that they can succeed where Andy Robinson and others have failed will prove a big motivation for any coach, and the chance to do so with a team currently ranked 12th in the world but with the talent clearly to be better will appeal to a few characters.
SEAN LINEEN (Evens)
The early favourite is Sean Lineen, the former Glasgow coach controversially dropped by the SRU into a new scouting/age grade role in the summer, which he is now, ironically, beginning to develop successfully. With nine years of professional coaching on top of six years in the club game with Boroughmuir, the former Scotland centre is the most well-equipped inside the country to step up.
BRYAN REDPATH (5/1)
The former Scotland captain and scrum-half moved from Gloucester to Sale controversially in the summer, and after a dreadful start to the league season was recently demoted from director of rugby to head coach. He has the experience and passion, and Sale owner Brian Kennedy may see it as a good way to help Redpath and Scottish rugby while easing the coach out of a four-year contract.
ALAN TAIT (33/1)
Former Newcastle head coach was Scotland assistant with Ian McGeechan and Frank Hadden and knows international game as well as anyone. A high-scoring Scotland and British and Irish Lions cap, Tait stepped down as Newcastle Falcons chief earlier this year.
SCOTT JOHNSON (4/1)
Current Scotland assistant coach is known as a maverick character and has divided opinion in previous roles with the Wallabes, Wales, USA and Ospreys, but the former Australia Under-21 fly-half is popular among Scottish players and has quickly made a positive impression on SRU chief executive Mark Dodson.
WAYNE SMITH (5/1)
Smith was in Scotland at the invitation of the SRU last month and proved popular in two weeks working with the pro team coaches, and club, schools and youth coaches. He turned down Jim Telfer for the Borders job in 2001 but told The Scotsman last month that he would not rule out a return to Test rugby. His family hail from Peterhead.
NICK MALLET (25/1)
Another probably on Mark Dodson’s ‘big-name’ radar, the former Springbok coach returned to South Africa last year after ending a four-year period in charge of Italy, insisting that he wanted to spend more time with his family in Cape Town after nearly 15 years coaching the Boks, Stade Francais and the Azzurri.
Evs Sean Lineen, 4/1 Scot Johnson 5/1 Brian Redpath, Wayne Smith 7/1 John Kirwan 10/1 Gregor Townsend, Michael Bradley 20 /1 Nick Mallet, Sir Ian McGeechan, 25/1 Martin Johnson 33/1 Rob Moffat, Alan Tait
Odds by McBookie
Who do you think should get the top job at Scottish Rugby?