Vern Cotter moved upstairs as Montpellier appoint new head coach

Vern Cotter, who has been given a new role at Montpellier.
Vern Cotter, who has been given a new role at Montpellier.
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Former Scotland coach Vern Cotter has been moved upstairs to a director of rugby role at Montpellier after a disappointing second season in France.

The 57-year-old Kiwi was reported to be the highest- paid coach in rugby when he left Scotland a year early after being replaced by Gregor Townsend in June 2017.

He led Montpellier to a first-place finish in the regular season Top 14 before losing the Grand Final to Castres last year but this term has not gone as well with the club seventh in the league and knocked out of the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage by Edinburgh.

The club’s billionaire owner Mohed Altrad has brought in former French international and current La Rochelle assistant-coach Xavier Garbajosa as the new head coach on a 
four-year contract.

“He [Garbajosa] comes to us to be head coach,” Altrad told L’Equipe. “He will only take care of the sports part. Vern Cotter will be the director of rugby according to the mode of Anglo-Saxon clubs or like Philippe Sella in Agen. He will be in charge of marketing, commerce, partnership and communication.”

Cotter was hired by the SRU in 2013 but had to see out the last year of his contract with Clermont Auvergne before taking the reins after the 2014 Six Nations.

Following a whitewash in the following year’s tournament he oversaw a dramatic improvement with a run to the World Cup quarter-finals and a number of big Six Nations wins.

Cotter has another year to run on his lucrative contract but is likely to be a man in demand in both Europe and the southern hemisphere.

Meanwhile, former Scotland assistant coach Dean Ryan has been appointed as Dragons director ofrugby.

The 52-year-old former 
England forward, who was part of the Scotland coaching team in 2012-2013, will be fully responsible for all rugby matters on and off the pitch at the Newport-based Welsh region.

Elsewhere, it has been confirmed that Cheetahs chief Franco Smith will take over from Conor O’Shea as head coach of Italy from the start of next year after the Irishman, who took the Azzurri job 
in 2016, leads them to the World Cup.