Edinburgh coaches have five games to prove worth

EDINBURGH’s interim coaches Stevie Scott and Duncan Hodge hope to use the remaining five games of the season to prove they are the right men to lead the team in the longer term.

Head coach Scott and assistant coach Hodge take charge of Edinburgh for the first time on Friday night, when Ulster visit Murrayfield on league duty. At present, the SRU would prefer to appoint a more experienced head coach for next season but the pair hope they can do well enough over the coming weeks to at least be considered as genuine longer-term candidates.

Both have also been assistant coaches to interim Scotland boss Scott Johnson, but Scott insisted yesterday that they could not combine those roles with their Edinburgh duties. “It would either be one or the other,” the former international hooker said. You need to focus on one team only. Everybody would agree on that, I would think.”

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Asked if that meant he would want to be in his present job next season, he replied: “The answer to that for me is yes.

“The reason I left my position with the union was to pursue forwards coaching. That’s why I went to Sale Sharks for 22 months.

“I enjoyed my time as a specialist coach, but that was the reason for me leaving. I feel I’ve come back from Sale as a better coach. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with Scotland again with three or four good coaches. I’ve come along a lot from a coaching point of view and I feel that I’m ready to be in that position.”

Having been told just a fortnight ago that they would have the posts after the RBS Six Nations Championship, both men are aware that time is tight if they are to make an impression. They have taken over from Michael Bradley and Neil Back, whose contracts were ended earlier this month after it had initially been announced that head coach Bradley would remain in post until May.

Hodge agreed that the short-term job was tantamount to an extended trial. “Yes,” he said. “For whatever reason, there’s a job that needs to be done for five weeks, and we’re lucky enough to get that opportunity. We’re absolutely delighted to do that. We’ll help in any way we can.

“We’ve come in to do a job for these five games and I think there will be discussions behind that. We’ve only got five games. We’ve only got three training sessions this week and possibly two next week.

“We want to change certain things, but there’s no point in giving too much information if the players can’t retain it. It’s quite a careful balancing act as coaches for us just now.”

Scott added that he would be keen to talk about doing the job for a longer period but accepted that the immediate priority had to be the game on Friday. He and Hodge have emphasised to their players that this is a fresh start for everyone and they are keen to bolster the self-belief of a squad who have badly under-achieved this season.

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“There’s not been a lot at the moment,” he said of discussions with the SRU. “It’s just a case of us getting in there. That’s something I’m keen to move forward with in the next few weeks.

“Our target is the first game, and it’s getting the performance. That’s what Duncan and I can build on. What we’ve done in training this week, the couple of days we’ve had with them, we’re very impressed with the boys’ attitude. They’ve trained really, really well. We can only build towards Friday and play against a very good Ulster team.

“The big thing for me and Duncan is that we’ve come in and the past is past. We’ve identified four or five areas that we’re going to concentrate on for the next five games. I played with Allan Jacobsen and I know Ross Ford well from the Borders, but there’s not a lot of players I know.

“So it’s about us getting to know these players. I honestly feel there’s been a genuine good buzz about the camp in the last two days.

“They’ve had a few days off coming into this new start. Some players would have taken it harder than others, what’s happened to the coaches, because some would have been closer to the coaches.

“I think they’ve handled it really well. They have reacted very positively and I’m full of praise for what I’ve seen in the last two days. We’ve got some good players. Edinburgh has some quality players.”

The pair will be allowed to concentrate wholly on coaching, and, for the moment at least, will play no part in targeting or signing players for next season.

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