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SRU chief: Scott Johnson’s role not a promotion

Scott Johnson's tenure as coach of Scotland came to an end after this year's Six Nations. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Scott Johnson's tenure as coach of Scotland came to an end after this year's Six Nations. Picture: Ian Rutherford

  • by ANDY NEWPORT
 

Scottish Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson insists former interim head coach Scott Johnson was not “rewarded” with a promotion after the Dark Blues’ miserable RBS 6 Nations campaign.

Australian Johnson led the national side to a series of new lows during a wretched tournament - but has now taken up duties as the SRU’s new director of rugby.

That move upstairs has astonished many pundits following a campaign that saw the Scots come within one late drop-goal against fellow strugglers Italy of five straight defeats.

That run included the 20-0 whitewash by England in front of a stunned Murrayfield crowd and a 51-3 humiliation in Cardiff against a rampant Wales team.

But Dodson has dismissed criticism of Johnson, claiming the 51-year-old bravely shouldered the responsibility of laying the groundwork for his replacement Vern Cotter, who will not take up his new role until his deal with Clermont Auvergne ends in the summer despite being appointed last May.

He said: “We need clarity on this issue. We appointed Scott to be director of rugby first. Then we got Vern Cotter as head coach. We knew we would have to wait for Vern as he wanted to finish the job he started at Clermont.

“We asked Scott to stand in during the interim. He had no ambition to do that but we asked him. He was happy to do it on one proviso, and that was to bring on Scottish players in larger numbers.

“In the period he’s been in charge, he has capped 17 new players, so we have a squad that is richer and deeper than ever.

“But as for the backlash about Scott being promoted, I’d say that he was never ‘promoted’ - he already had the job. Now he’s going back to that job to develop the plans we have got to develop the next generation of new talent, which is his specialism.

“We always knew there would be a problem with the 14-month period but Scott did what we asked him to do and he delivered what we asked him to deliver.”

Johnson won just five of his 16 games in charge. The Welsh hammering was the Scots’ heaviest ever defeat in the Six Nations, while their Calcutta Cup capitulation saw them fail to register a point against the Auld Enemy for first time in 36 years.

In light of those damning statistics, Dodson - who insists he never made any attempt to lure Cotter from France early - is praying the New Zealander proves worth the wait.

“Time will tell but our view is yes, he will be,” he said. “Having looked at the people available at that time, we believe Vern was the right man for us. We haven’t heard anyone say we have got it wrong.”

There was a list of former Scotland players queuing up to dish out flak to Johnson after the England debacle, while former Twickenham boss Sir Clive Woodward dubbed the Dark Blues XV that day the worst in the country’s history.

And Dodson admits the criticism was deserved.

He said: “The performance against England was what caused us problems. We did not compete against them in a Calcutta Cup match here at Murrayfield. It can’t get much worse.

“That was unacceptable to us but it was also unacceptable to the coaching team and the players.

“People have every right to vent, and the fact that they have strong feelings is a good thing because if they didn’t care, we’d really be in trouble. But we are taking those views on board and trying to change things so we don’t have that kind of performance in future.”

The SRU’s plans include setting up four regional academies and hiring more coaches to bring on the next generation of players.

Dodson insists he is also “happy to talk” to anyone willing to invest the £35million needed to run a third pro-team for five years amid rumours that Aberdeen Asset Management chief Martin Gilbert is ready to back a side for the Granite City.

But he admits big strides need to be taken and quickly.

“We have never come to terms with professionalism in Scottish rugby and that’s where the problems that still dog us come from,” he explained.

“We have to make sure we future-proof Scottish rugby so we can compete on a global scale. That means getting more people playing the game, spotting talent earlier, making sure those selected as elite players have the right competitive environment to play in.”

 

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