Rugby: Graham the man to take Edinburgh forward

George Graham. Pic Ian Rutherford

George Graham. Pic Ian Rutherford

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Edinburgh Rugby bosses were today urged to waste no time homing in on former Scotland back-room boy and ex-international prop George Graham to fill a vacancy created by the departure of forwards coach Tom Smith.

Smith has taken up a post with French side Lyon and while 46-year-old Graham was remaining tight-lipped about his coaching future other than to say he was happy continuing with the Gala club he recently piloted to the RBS Scottish Cup a former colleague had no qualms about nominating him as a genuine contender to assist Capital guru, Michael Bradley.

Alan Tait, who played with Graham for Newcastle Falcons and Scotland as well as joining him as part of Frank Hadden’s coaching team, said: “I spoke to George after Gala won the Cup to congratulate him because as I know from experience losing a coaching job can knock your confidence a bit. We both left the Scotland set-up after a spell working together under Frank Hadden and looking back we were maybe promoted into that environment a bit too early.

“Coaching a national team is totally different from the club game as both George and I discovered. At national level you work in spurts with players who want things they are used to in the day-to-day scheme of things with their clubs.

“International coaching is largely about analysis but I’d imagine that having been through that and gone abroad for a spell in Italy (to Petrarca), because he has never been afraid to fly the nest to better himself, George is much more ready to return to the pro game.

“George will be well suited to the Rabo Direct Pro 12 scene, too.

“When I lost my job at Newcastle Falcons last season I felt it was partly due to the fact I was trying to get the forwards playing the ball out of the tackle in the English Premiership and being mobile. What is really wanted in the Premiership is forwards who crash the ball up and seek out contact which is in contrast to how the Celtic teams are stepping up successfully in Europe.

“George’s work with Gala will have given him more of an insight into the Scottish style and I remember it was Tony Gilbert who introduced him to coaching when he was playing at Border Reivers. I certainly see any coaching job at Edinburgh as attractive.

“Not so long ago a young Alan MacDonald was coming up through the ranks and challenging the establishing back row players. Now I see MacDonald has just moved on and there’s the likes of Dave Denton, Ross Rennie and Stuart McInally holding down positions. There just seems to be a never-ending talent stream especially in the back row.

“Any coach would love to work with those boys and the likes of Ross Ford, too.

“Incidentally, McInally was part of an outstanding Scotland age-group squad I coached a few years back also featuring the likes of Robert Harley, Alex Dunbar, Alex Blair and Tom Brown – and I remember reporting that back to Frank Hadden at the time,” Tait went on.

“So, it would be a good time for George or anybody to get involved with Edinburgh and if they were to go for him they’d be getting much more than somebody who, as a player, never took a backward step.

“From when we first played together I realised George was always looking to speak to people to learn. He also had a spell in rugby league with Carlisle.”

In the 13-a-side code Graham never reached the heights of Tait who represented Great Britain in a world cup final.

Nevetheless, respect is considerable, Tait remarking: “For George to play pro rugby league as both a prop and a stand off was awesome.

“I used to kid George on about switching positions but it is hard to underestimate the knowledge he would have picked up from playing in the backs and putting in little kicks for players and general running lines. That sort of thing. It was typical of George to do something like that, too, because he isn’t one that likes do things in the normal way; he is always trying different ways to move forward.”

Others being tipped as contenders for the Edinburgh forwards job include Peter Wright and his Scottish Under-20 coaching colleague Simon Cross as well as Rob Hunter, a one-time London Scottish player who has been assisting age-group teams while ex-Edinburgh back row Carl Hogg’s future at Gloucester is uncertain after the departure of head coach Bryan Redpath.

Meanwhile, Tait intends to take time out while pondering his return to rugby. “I’ve been involved virtually non-stop since 1988 and one of the things I’m looking forward to is following the career of my son, Michael, at Newcastle now that he is well to recovering from a long-term knee injury,” he said.