Rugby chiefs hoping World Cup draw will attract head coach

Scott Johnson: under contract
Scott Johnson: under contract
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Scotland’s rugby bosses are hoping the 2015 World Cup draw will encourage applications for the vacancy created when Andy Robinson resigned as head coach.

After falling to 12th in the world rankings following 
autumn Test losses to New Zealand, South Africa and Tonga – a result which prompted Robinson’s resignation – Scotland were among the third seeds for the draw. Scotland, though, were drawn against the Springboks and Samoa, sides they beat in November 2010.

They will be optimistic of 
taking one of the top two places in the five-team pool, with Japan and Canada as the likely other nations, and advancing to the knockout stages.

Scotland’s World Cup draw may be considered favourable, but the fixtures will not be for the faint-hearted. The schedule is still to be determined, but back-to-back matches with the Springboks and Samoa – both physical teams – would be a test of Scotland’s playing resources, no matter who the head coach is.

It is understood a number of individuals with suitable attributes have already expressed interest in succeeding Robinson, who stood down on 25 November after ten losses in 13 matches.

Among those linked with the job have been former Italy coach Nick Mallett and ex-South Africa chief Jake White.

Kiwis Todd Blackadder, a former Edinburgh player, and Wayne Smith, the ex-All Black coach have also received mentions, along with respected former Scotland players Alan Tait and Bryan Redpath. The task of reviving Scotland’s 
fortunes could be tempting with the players believed by many to have underperformed.

AScottish Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson has indicated an interim appointment is likely ahead of the RBS Six Nations, which for Scotland begins at Twickenham against England on 2 February.

Australian Scott Johnson, appointed senior assistant coach by Robinson, is in line for a caretaker role, if that is the favoured route, but ex-Glasgow Warriors head coach Sean Lineen, now in a talent recruitment role with the SRU, is also a possible candidate. Given Johnson is under contract at Murrayfield and has held the head coach position before, at Wales and the United States Eagles, he appears to be the frontrunner.

Johnson could emulate Stuart Lancaster, who was in interim charge of England in February when they claimed a narrow win at Murrayfield. Ten months later, with Lancaster in permanent charge, his side beat world champions New Zealand at Twickenham.

Meanwhile, Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie has rejected the proposal that England’s crunch 2015 Rugby World Cup pool match against Wales should be played in Cardiff. England are the host nation of the tournament but the RFU’s bid included the prospect of the Millennium Stadium being used for up to eight matches, including two quarter-finals. England and Wales were drawn together alongside Australia in the World Cup’s “pool of death”, with the likelihood of them being joined by Fiji as Oceania qualifiers.

Immediately after the draw, Welsh Rugby Union chief Roger Lewis suggested Wales should play England at the Millennium Stadium because “it is the finest rugby stadium in the world”.

Ritchie’s response to the WRU was a polite thanks but no thanks.

“We have a very nice home of our own and I would hope very much we would contemplate playing the match here,” said Ritchie, who is overseeing a £76million upgrade of Twickenham. “With our modest little stadium here at Twickenham, with the further investment we might be able to make it into a decent spot to play rugby. We equally believe we are very good hosts here and that we could hold a decent game here.

“Shock, horror and astonishment that I would suggest that! We will not get a better opportunity to inspire people to play rugby, be volunteers and participate in rugby. We are putting the building blocks in place to make sure we take advantage of having the World Cup.”

The final decision on fixture dates and venues will be made by tournament organisers 
England Rugby 2015, of which Ritchie is a board member, by the end of March.