BEN Cairns is the latest professional player to step back into the club game in the hope that it will further strengthen the development of players and club rugby, and his own prospects of becoming a rugby coach.
The lack of engagement between club sides and the elite end of Scottish rugby has been a major problem for the SRU since the game went open in 1995. Both clubs and the union have been at fault for a failure to work together more effectively, often ignorant of the others’ needs and demands, while the failure of the SRU to promote more home-bred coaches remains a thorny point of debate.
However, since the SRU lifted its ban on employees having club affiliations, players have been spending more time with local clubs and Cairns has followed Edinburgh hooker Steve Lawrie, who coached Heriot’s last season, in joining Ally Donaldson at his old stomping ground of Currie as defence and skills coach.
The 27-year-old has spent much of the past two years recovering from a knee injury, and, after returning this season and playing for Edinburgh and Scotland A, he was forced into a new operation to repair cartilage damage. In an unusual move, Edinburgh have released him but agreed that he can continue to work with the club’s physios and strength and conditioning staff with a view to re-hiring him if he makes a full recovery and fits the club’s needs.
Cairns said: “I’m really grateful for the chance offered by both Edinburgh Rugby and Currie to pursue my ambitions of playing and coaching at two great clubs.
“I still believe I have a lot offer on the pitch, but a professional playing career is a short one and it’s important we all prepare ourselves for life after rugby.”
Currie head coach Donaldson welcomed the move as an indication of growing respect from the top end of Scottish rugby for the club game, and is convinced that Cairns and Currie will benefit.
“Ben still has realistic ambitions to play the game at the highest level,” he acknowledged. “But this is a great opportunity for him to cut his teeth in coaching and see if it’s a career he’d like to pursue. It’s good to formalise an arrangement with him and we look forward to bringing his experience and enthusiasm to the first team.”