Rugby Union: Dixon opts to jump before he is pushed

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The Independent Online
Richie Dixon resigned as Scotland's national coach yesterday, leaving them to prepare for next week's Five Nations opener in a tactical vacuum. Chris Hewett says Dixon's days were numbered from the moment Italy beat them last Saturday.

It had to happen and, in many ways, Richie Dixon will be relieved to shed the burden. Two years ago, the Scots missed out on what would have been a wholly unexpected but deserved Grand Slam. This season, they have stumbled from one humiliation to another without any sign of respite.

The Scottish Rugby Union announced Dixon's resignation yesterday, along with that of his assistant, the former international centre David Johnston. Only Arthur Hastie, a team manager with no obvious handle on either tactics or preparation, remains. A new regime is expected to be finalised today.

Dixon's position was well nigh impossible and not just because his best players were either not performing - step forward Rob Wainwright and Gregor Townsend - or injured, like Tom Smith and Kevin McKenzie. His status was effectively undermined by the presence in the background of Ian McGeechan and Jim Telfer.

McGeechan, who coached the Lions to victory over South Africa last summer, was taken on in a consultative capacity on his return and although Dixon made all the right diplomatic noises, there was no mistaking his discomfort at the development. With Telfer already in position as technical director, Dixon was nothing more than the meat in a high-powered sandwich.

Last week's collapse in Treviso was the final straw, coming as it did in the wake of record home defeats by Australia and South African and a record of eight losses in their last 10 internationals.

"It had to be recognised that following a period in which the national side had failed to perform, it was time for a change," said Duncan Paterson, the chairman of the SRU's executive board. Paterson forwarded his "sincere thanks" to Dixon and Johnston, but the tone of his remarks suggested both had jumped in the full expectation of being pushed.

If McGeechan and Telfer are persuaded to take over the reins - and it is inconceivable that the Scottish executive has not approached them - they have little more than a week to work their Lions magic.