Rugby Union: Telfer and McGeechan to Lionise Scots' revival

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The Independent Online
The men in charge of Scottish rugby union yesterday put its faith in the so-called dream coaching ticket of Jim Telfer and Ian McGeechan following the departure this week of Richie Dixon and David Johnston.

George O'Sullivan reports.

Jim Telfer has been appointed national coach as successor to Richie Dixon, who resigned under pressure from the Scottish Rugby Union on Thursday. Dixon has accepted a new post, that of Scotland's coaching co-ordinator.

Dixon's right-hand man, David Johnston, who maintained his position in an Edinburgh legal practice through his term as a Scotland coach, was said by Duncan Paterson, chairman of the SRU's Executive Board, to be consulting "advisors". Dixon and Johnston had coaching contracts through to the 1999 World Cup

Telfer's partner will be fellow Lions coaching guru, Ian Mc-Geechan. He was already a consultant to the Scotland team after a deal agreed earlier this season with Keith Barwell, Northampton's owner, where McGeechan has a seven-year contract.

Barwell is understood to be ready to negotiate a release fee for McGeechan under the same rules as applied when England tried unsuccessfully to head hunt Saints' director of rugby last summer.

However, Paterson said: "The move does not involve Ian McGeechan increasing his time commitment to Scotland other than what was previously agreed with Northampton."

One consequence of Scotland's shake-up is that selection plans already announced for next weekend's opening match of the Five Nations' Championship against Ireland in Dublin will be revised and announced again on Tuesday.

Last Wednesday the Scots announced a squad of 23 players, including Damien Cronin of Wasps and Stuart Grimes of Watsonians, who were not among the 21 picked for the 25-21 defeat by Italy in Treviso last weekend.

Paterson added: "Scotland took a hammering last week and it was felt the chemistry wasn't right. There is never a right time to do this [replace coaches]. This is new to us. If there was a sensitive way of doing it we would have looked for it."

Arthur Hastie, who remains as Scotland manager and part of a new selection panel comprising John Jeffrey, Colin Fisher, the A coach Graham Hogg and Telfer, said of the new arrangement: "I'll speak to players over the weekend."

Assisting Telfer and McGeechan will be the Under-21 forwards coach, David Leslie, and Roy Laidlaw, an age group coach, who steps up into the senior set-up. The new arrangements are subject to review and Telfer will be staying on as the SRU's director of rugby.

However, Telfer has handed over the chairmanship of the SRU's international board to the former international captain Andy Irvine. He announced the new selectors to replace a system based on Hastie, Dixon and Johnston, saying: "As a former player I know how difficult it is to lose and still remain motivated for the next match. Sometimes motivation requires fresh voices and a new approach."

Telfer said: "We need to regain self-confidence and self-belief in the team and play again as we know we can. I'm not one for looking back except to draw upon experience.

"I don't think I'll be changing my style now. I've mellowed a lot. I take a lot more advice than I used to. I did on the Lions tour and the players will tell you that. A change of structure this close to an international does pose certain challenges. We have to be honest about it and meet those challenges head on."