SRU chief Mark Dodson has opted for profile and experience in a bid to push Edinburgh on to the next level.
After years in the shadow of Glasgow Warriors, scraping around the bottom half of the Guinness Pro12 and rattling around in a cavernous and soulless BT Murrayfield, Dodson will hope that the appointment of Richard Cockerill, aged 46, as head coach for next season can be the catalyst that drives the capital club forward.
With the current trial period at Myreside already providing a much better matchday atmosphere for supporters the arrival of Cockerill in the summer could be viewed as a fresh start for a club which has been in the grip of a malaise for the best part of a decade.
A poor start to the season spelled the end of the Alan Solomons era and former Scotland stand-off Duncan Hodge has been in caretaker charge since. He notched up some notable early wins over Ulster, Harlequins and Stade Francais and Edinburgh topped their European Challenge Cup pool, but form in the Guinness Pro12 has been poor, including a shocking home loss to Zebre and heavy defeats on the road leaving them down in ninth.
Hodge will continue to lead Edinburgh for the rest of the season, with their next match at home to Cardiff in the Guinness Pro12 on Friday night before reverting to his old job as backs coach.
Dodson expressed delight yesterday at the capture of the former Leicester director of rugby who led the Tigers to three English Premiership titles and the 2009 Heineken Cup final.
He made more than 250 appearances for the Welford Road club in two spells before 12 years on the coaching staff, becoming head coach in 2009 and director of rugby the following year. After suffering heavy European Champions Cup defeats at Glasgow and Munster he was forced out at the start of the year amid reports of a rift with his head coach, Aaron Mauger, who subsequently replaced him.
The 27-times capped former England hooker swiftly took up a consultancy role with French club Toulon but has jumped at the chance to become Edinburgh head coach and Dodson is delighted to have got his man.
“I am very pleased to have secured Richard’s services given how highly sought after he was from leading clubs across Europe,” said the SRU chief executive. “As a highly experienced, winning coach we targeted him and worked hard to ensure his talents could be secured for the benefit of Edinburgh Rugby. I believe his appointment clearly demonstrates our commitment to developing and maintaining success at our professional clubs in Scotland.
“The fact he has chosen Edinburgh Rugby as the next step in his career says everything about the shared vision we have for the club and his role in it. I’d like to thank Duncan Hodge for all his hard work with the club so far and look forward to him continuing to contribute to Edinburgh Rugby.”
Edinburgh Rugby managing director Jonny Petrie added: “This is an exciting period for Edinburgh Rugby. Richard’s arrival will bring a fresh perspective to the playing group and I’m sure our fans will be encouraged we have secured someone with his track record to take the club forward.
“Duncan Hodge has been a consummate professional throughout his tenure as acting head coach and I think our supporters and players will join me in thanking him and be pleased he will continue to contribute to the club.”
Meanwhile, former New Zealand centre Kieran Keane will replace Pat Lam as Connacht head coach this summer, having signed a three-year deal to move to the Pro12 champions.
The Chiefs’ attack coach will leave Super Rugby in time to head up Connacht’s preparations for the 2017-18 campaign.
Keane will also go toe-to-toe with current boss Dave Rennie next term, when the Chiefs head coach takes the reins at Glasgow Warriors.
Connacht CEO Willie Ruane hailed the appointment of an experienced, attack-minded coach who can continue the trends ushered in by Lam, who joins Bristol in the summer.
Ruane said: “Kieran’s rugby CV speaks for itself and immediately highlighted to us that he was the perfect fit in the context of the profile of coach that we were looking for,”