THE SRU has confirmed that they have reached agreement with a new Scotland head coach, and, while they are keeping his identity secret for now, the man is not a Scot and Australian Ewen McKenzie has emerged as front-runner.
The Scotsman understands that the SRU have struck a deal with a leading coach currently involved with a Super Rugby team and have agreed not to reveal his identity until the end of this month at the earliest. He will not be involved with the summer tour to South Africa as the Super Rugby competition runs until a final at the start of August and Scott Johnson, who will name the tour squad tomorrow, will remain in charge alongside new forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys, while also taking up his new role as SRU Director of Rugby.
Chief executive Dodson was speaking at the Emirates Airline Glasgow 7s alongside Johnson and Humphreys, and welcomed all three appointments as forming the apex of a new structure to invigorate Scottish rugby. He said: “It’s a very important day as this is a major building block in the future of Scottish rugby, having a director of rugby for the SRU, and we’re fortunate also to have a high-quality forwards coach in Jonathan [Humphreys] joining us too, who has an extensive track record in bringing through talent in Wales.
“I am also delighted to be able to tell you that we have concluded our search for a head coach and we will be announcing that appointment in the next few weeks. That is also one of the key decisions in Scottish sport because this is a sport where we can be globally competitive. We’re happy that that structure is right.”
Asked about Johnson’s rapid rise from joining Andy Robinson’s coaching set-up last summer to interim Scotland coach and now being in overall charge of the Scottish game and why the director of rugby role had not been advertised, Dodson said: “Scott’s appointment was a pretty easy decision in the end when you look at the job that was needed to be done.
“When we discussed the structure that we needed, Scott was already with us and what we don’t want to do is go outside our business and advertise, or think about advertising posts, that we don’t need to. We looked at other candidates. It’s not the most extensive list you’ve ever seen because we wanted the very best and it became clear, when we had our discussions together that Scott would fit the bill to do the role perfectly, and that’s why we didn’t advertise the post.
“We have to invest in Scottish talent, from a playing and coaching perspective. I have said before that we are too small to lose one high-quality player or coach. The new structure will hopefully make sure that doesn’t happen in the future.”
It is believed that Wayne Smith, the former All Black, World Cup-winning assistant coach and current Waikato Chiefs assistant was offered either the head coach or director of rugby role. McKenzie, the Queensland Reds chief who missed out on the Ireland post to Joe Schmidt, and ex-South Africa coach Jake White were also believed to be interested.
Dodson said: “We’ve had discussions with the new head coach about the appointments we’ve made.
“What is exciting for me is that guys of this calibre are excited by the prospect and potential in Scottish rugby and are prepared to put their talent and reputation on the line here.”
Dodson said Johnson’s experience would be crucial in leading a new structure of academies for young players more closely entwined with club rugby, as well as the development of coaches from grassroots levels through the pro teams to national level.
“This structure will allow us to address many of the ills that have beset our game over the last 10-15 years. We’re not saying we’re going to get them all right but this structure will go a long way to address those issues.
“We’ve lost a Six Nations, but had victories this year, and there will be ups and downs through to World Cups in 2015 and 2019. You have to expect that in a country of this size, but we’re going to get more competitive, we’re going to get more consistent and will compete on the world stage. I’m not going to walk away from that statement [aiming to win the world cup in 2015]. I feel very comfortable that we are moving forward, that we’re going to get stronger and better, and we’ll have better players, better players attracted to us and better coaching.”