Vern Cotter plots rugby return for Nathan Hines

VERN Cotter will attempt to lure Nathan Hines back to Scotland for a potential shock return for club and country.

VERN Cotter will attempt to lure Nathan Hines back to Scotland for a potential shock return for club and country.

Clermont-Auvergne head coach Cotter takes over as national coach at Murrayfield in June and hopes to arrive with the 77-cap forward in tow.

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Hines turned 37 last month and retired from international rugby following his third World Cup campaign in 2011, for family reasons.

Yet Cotter is convinced that the veteran forward still has a future at Test level, the pair having worked closely together for the past two years in France.

Hines is out of contract at Clermont at the end of the season and has not been offered a new contract beyond June, so will be a free agent. And that could also spark interest from both his former club Edinburgh, whom he played for from 1999 to 2005, and Glasgow Warriors, for his services.

Cotter said: “Nathan is a wonderful player. He’s got heaps of experience and still has another good year or two in him before he stops playing.

“I would like to have him involved in the Scotland set-up. He has lived there before and has been involved in the national scene. He has not been offered a new contract here [at Clermont] so that means he’s a free agent. So, who knows, perhaps he will come to Scotland with me.”

Cotter would not be the first coach to talk Hines into returning from retirement.

The forward quit Test rugby in 2005 after falling out with then national boss Matt Williams but returned the following year under his former Edinburgh mentor Frank Hadden. A move to Scotland would also prompt speculation that Hines may eventually take over as forwards’ coach, a role currently held by former Wales captain John Humphreys.

Cotter takes over after the domestic French season in May, in time for the start of Scotland’s gruelling summer tour that takes in USA, Canada, Argentina and South Africa.

However the Kiwi revealed he has been keeping a close eye on Glasgow and Edinburgh and has already begun sounding out the likes of Scotland’s French-based stars.

Cotter said: “I’m watching Glasgow and Edinburgh as often as possible in the Heineken Cup. They’re not in our pool but it’s easy to watch the games on television or even get the analysis information back from their games.

“Being in France means I can speak to those players based there and I’ve already had a chance to meet up with Jim Hamilton and Johnnie Beattie at Montpellier and Richie Gray at Castres. It’s good to hear the opinion of those guys and see where they think things can change or develop.

“It was also interesting to see John Barclay play [against Clermont] for Scarlets [last week] and to see first-hand what he does and how he goes about his business.”