Clermont’s Vern Cotter offered Scotland rugby job

Cotter is currently head coach at European Cup finalists Clermont Auvergne. Picture: Getty
Cotter is currently head coach at European Cup finalists Clermont Auvergne. Picture: Getty
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NEW Zealander Vern Cotter is considering an offer to take over as Scotland’s head coach this summer, but the deal is still to be finalised.

SRU chief executive Mark Dodson opened the door to rumour and speculation ten days ago when he announced that the SRU had their new head coach signed up, but that his identity would be kept secret for the time being.

It now appears that Dodson had got a bit ahead of himself as it is understood that Cotter, the Clermont head coach, is waiting until after this weekend’s Heineken Cup final, and potentially the French Top 14 final in a fortnight, before returning to the discussion table and giving his final answer. He has, however, been offered lucrative terms to take on the Scotland job.

The SRU considered former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith for both the Scotland head coach and SRU director of rugby roles, but the Waikato Chiefs assistant revealed last week that he was not tempted by either. Ewen McKenzie, the Queensland Reds coach, and Crusaders chief Todd Blackadder were other southern hemisphere coaches linked, but they dismissed any interest.

Blackadder, who coached Scotland briefly under Matt Williams in 2004, said yesterday: “At the moment I am just really focusing on trying to win a title. I’ll do Super Rugby for as long as I can, to be successful of course, and then one day hopefully go on to coach the All Blacks.

“What they [Scotland] need is a really good, experienced coach, someone who has been around the traps and can give them that self-belief that they need. You’ve got to do your time. I’m really ambitious but I’m happy with the job that I’ve got and want to do well here.”

Cotter was also linked with the Ireland coaching position, that went to fellow Kiwi Joe Schmidt, but speaking to a New Zealand radio station last month he insisted that he was committed to seeing out his contract with Clermont, which still has another year to run, suggesting that Edinburgh was not a likely destination either.

However, his name was thrown into the Scotland mix at the weekend and further investigation by The Scotsman has uncovered that the current Clermont Auvergne chief has spoken with the SRU and is considering an offer to replace interim coach Scott Johnson, who was recently promoted to the role of director of rugby.

Cotter is an experienced and highly-rated coach, albeit he has yet to work at international level. The 51-year-old played as a back row in Auckland for ten years before heading to France where he played for a series of lesser-known clubs.

He returned to New Zealand to take up a coaching appointment at Bay of Plenty in 1999 and moved on to the Crusaders in 2004, where he was assistant to Robbie Deans for two years, and duly helped the team regain the Super 12 title and win the first Super 14.

He left in 2006 to take over as head coach at Clermont Auvergne and led the French side to second in the Top 14 in 2007, 2008 and 2009, claimed the European Challenge Cup in 2007 and finally dropped their domestic bridesmaid tag with the championship title in 2010. Clermont have secured two further runners-up finishes in the Top 14 and will face Castres in this year’s semi-finals in a fortnight, with a Heineken Cup final against Toulon this weekend.

New Zealand reportedly considered him for the All Blacks management after winning the World Cup and the RFU spoke to the Kiwi when searching for candidates to rival Stuart Lancaster, when the current England coach held the position last year on an interim basis. He has declined to comment on the SRU approach, but had this to say last year about the RFU opportunity: “I had a conversation about it, but that was as far as it went. It was always a complicated situation with an interim coach in place. Once Stuart was in there it would be very hard to take him out. Of course, international rugby is where we all aspire to be and it was encouraging to be under consideration. These things are about timing. I’ve got a great job here so the conversation in the end was pretty brief.”

The timing may be perfect now for the Kiwi,who is likened by some to former Scotland coach Jim Telfer. The fact he is not yet signed and sealed points to why the SRU opted to leave Johnson in charge for the South Africa tour, but there must be the possibility that Cotter could now join the squad for the first time after the French Top 14 final on 1 June.

Asked about the offer made to Cotter, an SRU spokesman said: “We do not comment on speculation.”