THE SRU revealed their worst-kept secret for a while when Vern Cotter was confirmed as Scotland coach from June, 2014.
Bizarrely, Mark Dodson had announced at the Glasgow Sevens at the beginning of last month that the SRU had appointed a coach.
But he would not name him to allow Cotter to focus on the Heineken Cup Final and the Top 14 semi-finals with Clermont Auvergne both of which Cotter’s team lost. It was an odd move, and it would perhaps have been better to have kept quiet for a few more weeks.
Cotter has an impressive pedigree, having coached the Canterbury Crusaders to two Super Rugby titles and led Clermont Auvergne to the French Championship in 2010.
But the Heineken Cup has still eluded the New Zealander. Both the Crusaders and Clermont Auvergne are blessed with substantial budgets, and are oozing with talented rugby players.
The same cannot be said of Scotland.
While it can be argued that most half-decent coaches should do well with financial clout behind them, Cotter has a good reputation. He is in demand as a coach, with many expecting him to be looking after the All Blacks before the end of his career.
He has a tough job with Scotland, not least because he is unlikely to join for another year or so.
His contract with Clermont still has a year to run, and in the worst-case scenario he will only have 12 months to work with Scotland before the Rugby World Cup a competition the SRU have stated they will win. It would not be a bad thing if the SRU and Clermont came to a sensible arrangement to accelerate his release from France.
Meantime Scotland head off to South Africa to participate in a triangular tournament with the Springboks, Italy and Samoa. They begin with a game against Samoa next Saturday, and then play the Springboks a week later, with the final game being determined by how they get on in the ‘pool’ matches.
It promises to be a tough and physical tour, but one where the more inexperienced Scottish players stand to learn a great deal.
There are nine uncapped players, and with Sean Maitland and Stuart Hogg on Lions duty, there are real opportunities in the back three for the likes of Greig Tonks and Peter Murchie, not to mention Tom Heathcote, whose style of play should suit the hard grounds of South Africa. It will be another measure of Scott Johnson’s progress with the team.
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