The final major cog in Gregor Townsend’s Scotland back-room set-up emerged yesterday with the news that Mike Blair will join his team as skills coach.
The country’s most-capped scrum-half has been working in a similar role under Townsend at Glasgow Warriors for the past two seasons and will now move across to work with the national squad along with forwards chief Dan McFarland and defence coach Matt Taylor.
Blair, 36, moved into coaching full-time last summer after initially joining Glasgow as a player/coach in 2015-16. Highly regarded as one of the country’s most promising young coaches and viewed as a potential future Scotland boss, Blair’s role with the national team will focus on assisting the attack, improving skills and working closely with the scrum-halves.
Blair will continue to work with Glasgow outside Test windows in a similar arrangement to that undertaken by Taylor over the past few years.
On a day of major coaching announcements by the SRU, the news about Blair was followed later in the day by a raft of developments regarding the new Richard Cockerill regime at Edinburgh and the Scotland Sevens squad.
As expected, current caretaker Duncan Hodge will return to the role of attack coach he held with both Scotland and Edinburgh under Alan Solomons.
Current Scotland Sevens coach Calum MacRae will take over from Peter Wilkins as defence coach, with John Dalziel replacing MacRae. Dalziel, who has been working as forwards coach at London Scottish this season, will return to his role as Scotland Under-20 chief for the summer’s Junior World Cup in Georgia before taking on the Sevens post.
In a new role, Matt Cornwell, who worked with Cockerill as team manager at Leicester Tigers, will join Edinburgh as head of rugby operations.
The current Scotland Sevens strength and conditioning coach Nick Lumley will also join Edinburgh, replacing Ashley Jones.
As well as Hodge, Wilkins and forwards coach Stevie Scott signed new two-year deals at the start of the season. There was no mention of Scott in yesterday evening’s release from the SRU, with clarification of his future at Edinburgh, or otherwise, expected next week. Blair, meanwhile, is looking forward to working with Scotland, for whom he won 85 caps in a decade-long Test career from 2002 to 2012. Following ten years at Edinburgh, the 2009 Lions tourist also played for Brive and Newcastle Falcons before his move to Scotstoun.
Under Blair’s guidance 23-year-old Ali Price has flourished for the Warriors this season, with some impressive displays in Europe and grasping the Scotland No 9 jersey when skipper Greig Laidlaw was injured in the second week of the Six Nations.
Blair said: “I’m delighted to take on this role with Scotland at an exciting time in the team’s development.”
Townsend effectively takes over from Vern Cotter as Scotland head coach at the final whistle of tomorrow evening’s Guinness Pro12 season-ending 1872 Cup clash between Glasgow and Edinburgh at Scotstoun and is expected to name his squad for the June summer tour to Australia, Fiji and a game against Italy in Singapore early next week.
Blair will continue to work with the Warriors, who will be led by Kiwi Dave Rennie next season, with Scotland forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys and attack guru Jason O’Halloran also moving to Glasgow.
Nathan Hines, who had been employed by the SRU as a “resource coach” and worked with the national, pro teams and academies, is moving to France to be Cotter’s forwards coach at Montpellier.
SRU chief executive Mark Dodson said: “I am committed to creating success at Edinburgh Rugby and the results, especially in the Guinness Pro12, this season have fallen well short of what we expect.
“We are acting quickly to create a different set-up and environment at the club following Richard Cockerill’s appointment. Duncan conducted himself incredibly well during a difficult season and his skills in developing Edinburgh’s attack will play a key role next season and, by bringing in Calum, we are investing in a young, talented coach with a growing reputation.”