Andy Robinson set to take the reins at Bristol
HAVING crossed the national divide, Andy Robinson has now agreed to an English county equivalent by taking the reins in a multi-million pound bid to create success at Bristol, the great rivals of his former club Bath.
The 48-year-old former England flanker and coach stood down as Scotland head coach in November after three-and-a-half years in the role. He struggled to unearth consistency in the national squad and after a disappointing first World Cup in which Scotland failed to reach the quarter-finals, his team nose-dived to the wooden spoon in last year’s RBS Six Nations Championship and a record low of 12th in the world rankings after an autumn whitewash.
On Monday he will be revealed as the new director of rugby at Bristol, brought in by wealthy football and rugby club owner Steve Lansdown to spearhead a drive back to the Premiership and into Europe. Bristol have missed out twice in recent years on the Premiership play-offs and currently sit sixth in the Championship, England’s second tier. Lansdown, who bought a large stake in the club a year ago, while also running Bristol City FC, sees Robinson as the man to change their fortunes.
Newcastle are clear favourites to bounce back to the Premiership this season, so Robinson is likely to start out in the Championship, but it is the kind of challenge that will excite the Taunton-born coach. Capped eight times by England, he spent his entire playing career with Bath and then stepped into coaching at the Recreation Ground and led them to the Heineken Cup in 1998. He joined the England set-up and was the head coach under manager Sir Clive Woodward when England won the World Cup in 2003.
Left by Woodward following that win, he struggled to maintain the success and endured a poor British and Irish Lions tour under Woodward in 2005. After being sacked by the RFU in 2006 he headed to Scotland in 2007, initially coaching Edinburgh to second in the old Magners League and then taking on the Scotland job from Frank Hadden in 2009. Despite historic victories over South Africa, Australia and Argentina, and developing a style of rugby that packed out Murrayfield again, he could not uncover the secret to making Scotland consistently competitive and succumbed in November on the back of a poor run of results.
Robinson is expected to join Bristol in the director role at the end of this season with current head coach Liam Middleton to continue as part of a new expansion of Bristol’s plans. An accountant, Lansdown launched a successful insurance business, Hargreaves Lansdown, in 1981, which was quoted as being worth around £280m in 2009. He sold shares in 2009 for £47m, which he used to help Bristol City build a new stadium, and in 2010 sold shares worth £58m.
The west country club have already announced four new signings from the Premiership for next season – Peter Buxton, Mark Sorenson, Andy Short and Errie Claassens – and are looking at a move to Ashton Gate in a ground-share with Bristol City FC or a new stadium build at Ashton Vale. With Robinson’s family based in Bath it could be the perfect launchpad for the coach from which to rebuild his career.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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