THE Scottish Rugby Union has axed Edinburgh coaches Michael Bradley and Neil Back with immediate effect in an effort to bring “fresh impetus” to the end of the club’s season.
Former Edinburgh players Stevie Scott and Duncan Hodge, both specialist coaches with Scotland, will take over when the RBS Six
Nations ends on 18 March until the end of the season.
But the move has led to more questions over the SRU’s timing. Just last month chief executive Mark Dodson announced that Bradley’s contract would not be renewed when it ended in May.
That development came after the team’s poor run of results in the RaboDirect PRO12 and Heineken Cup, and defence coach Billy McGinty, who was also going to be let go, opted to leave immediately. Nothing was said at that time about the future of Back, who only joined Edinburgh last summer and had a year left on his contract.
With Edinburgh having lost all six matches in the Heineken Cup and recorded just four league wins all season, the decision was not a surprise. The question was why Bradley was being left in charge when it had been decided that he could no longer take the team forward. The suspicion was that the SRU was reluctant to pay off the remainder of his contract and to have someone else come in only in the short term.
Dodson is known to have been busy behind the scenes searching for a new coaching team. Just last week, Back made it clear to The Scotsman that he wanted to replace Bradley as head coach.
Dodson has decided that will not be the case, and could have reacted to Back’s words by making that clear, even though the CEO appears no closer to appointing a new coaching team.
However, with Scott and Hodge already on the SRU payroll, it will no longer cost Dodson extra cash for coaches to take the Edinburgh reins for their final five games.
The players are currently working with the strength and conditioning coaches during a two-week league break.
Dodson said: “We feel this move is necessary to give a fresh impetus to the squad going into the remainder of the season. Our search for a new coaching team for Edinburgh Rugby continues, with a view to getting the club back on a winning track.”
It may be that the team’s ongoing struggle to secure a win, despite some good rugby of late, has provoked a fear in Dodson that season-ticket sales for next season will slump. It is debatable whether a few late-season wins or a change of coaches will alter that, but Scott and Hodge are certainly pleased to have the chance to throw their hats into the ring for the posts long-term.
“I’m delighted to be given this opportunity for the rest of the season,” said Scott. “Naturally, the big thing for me at the moment is my commitment to the national team but, come a week on Saturday night in Paris, I’ll be straight into Edinburgh Rugby mode and will be working with Duncan to get the players ready for the home match against
Ulster and the rest of the season.”
Hodge, a specialist kicking coach with the pro teams and Scotland, added: “As someone who played over 150 games for the club, I’m delighted to be given this opportunity to assist Edinburgh Rugby and have an influence on the last five games of the season.”
The main contenders for coaching roles will include those two but their limited experience of actually running teams would make them outsiders.
Other contenders for assistant coach posts may include Carl Hogg (Gloucester), Greig Oliver (Garryowen/Munster), Peter Wright (Peebles) and Premiership club coaches Craig Chalmers – his Chinnor appointment is not a full-time professional deal – Kenny Murray (Ayr) and Simon Cross (Edinburgh Accies).
But their chances will depend on who is named as head coach, with Bryan Redpath, currently at Sale, a leading Scottish candidate, and Hogg also a contender. Former Ireland and British and Irish Lions coach Eddie O’Sullivan is one of several non-Scots believed to be in the frame.
After the difficulties faced by Bradley, who was the surprise choice of former chief executive Gordon McKie, and a fall in revenue from Edinburgh crowds this season – thousands of tickets have been given away for several games to ensure an attendance of any note – Dodson is acutely aware of the need to get these appointments right.