Sir Ian McGeechan confirms Bath departure
FORMER Scotland coach Ian McGeechan has confirmed that he will leave Bath at the end of the season and is expected to turn his focus almost wholly to the British and Irish Lions tour in 2013.
McGeechan, now 65, joined Bath in 2010 as performance director on a two-year contract. He stepped up to director of rugby, effectively head coach, when Steve Meehan was moved on last year but Bath have struggled this season despite the injection of significant cash funds by new multi-millionaire owner Bruce Craig to the playing squad and behind the scenes.
They languish in eighth spot in the Aviva Premiership, out of the Heineken Cup qualifying spots, and were helped out of this year’s European competition by defeat at Glasgow.
McGeechan has also, however, been helping to advise the Lions manager Andy Irvine and their fellow Scot Guy Richardson, the Lions director of operations, in recent months.
He returned to the role of head coach for an unprecedented fourth time on the 2009 tour and helped to restore some of the Lions lustre even in defeat in South Africa, after the ill-fated 2005 tour headed by Sir Clive Woodward. McGeechan was part of Woodward’s management, but held a fringe role in charge of the midweek side and had little input to the main Test arena. His midweek side were unbeaten, but the Test team coached by Woodward and Andy Robinson were whitewashed.
Interviews have been completed with Warren Gatland for the 2013 position with Scotland’s Six Nations whitewash having effectively ruled Robinson out of the running this time. Contract negotiations are ongoing with Gatland and the Welsh Rugby Union, the Kiwi having enhanced his stock with another Grand Slam.
Gatland also developed an excellent working relationship with McGeechan on the 2009 tour, as one of the Scot’s assistants, and if he wants McGeechan to be part of his management team in any capacity McGeechan will go to Hong Kong and Australia next year.
Even if he does not wish him to be part of the official management team, there is a strong likelihood that the Scot may continue through 2012-13 in his consultancy role and act as one of several selectors travelling to games across the UK and Ireland through next season. McGeechan did not comment yesterday on what the future may hold for himself, but he is not expected to be in a hurry to move into another hands-on role, especially with the Lions tour now moving closer on the horizon.
With Bath’s forwards coach Martin Haag also leaving the Recreation Ground, speculation was mounting last night that the English club have lined up South African Gary Gold, who replaced Alan Tait at Newcastle on a temporary contract, or the Australian coach Michael Cheika, who achieved Celtic League and Euro-pean success with Leinster but has struggled to emulate that at Stade Francais.
The club would not confirm or deny the reports, insisting only that they were making “good progress” in identifying a head coach and will have a new structure in place by the summer.
McGeechan commented: “I’ve really enjoyed being part of Bath Rugby and the challenge of leading the cultural change that has taken place, particularly over the last 18 months. The commitment of the players and staff during this significant transitional period has been outstanding. I will now take on the responsibility as head coach for the last three games.”
The former Scotland internationalist and coach played for the Lions in the famous unbeaten tour of 1974 and in New Zealand in 1977, and was then in charge of the Lions in the victorious tours to Australia and South Africa in 1989 and 1997 respectively, and lost narrowly by one Test in New Zealand and South Africa in 1993 and 2009. He coached Scotland to the 1990 Grand Slam and his first full-time rugby position was as rugby director at Northampton during the 1990s, where he was at the forefront of the professional revolution in Europe.
He returned to coaching Scotland in 2000 before taking over from Jim Telfer as SRU director of rugby in 2003. He quit in 2005 during the Murrayfield coup that claimed David Mackay and Phil Anderton, and took over as rugby director at Wasps.
He steered the English outfit to the Heineken Cup during his second season at the helm, and moved to Bath almost two years ago following a brief stint as coaching adviser with his former players Bryan Redpath and Carl Hogg at Gloucester.
Bath have three Premiership games remaining this season – against Sale, Wasps and Leicester – in which to claim qualification for next season’s Heineken Cup.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West