Rugby Union: McGeechan becomes a full-time salaried Saint

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IAN McGEECHAN always had choirboy looks but yesterday he became a full-blown Saint when Northampton - the Saints - announced the former British Isles and Scotland coach as their full-time director of rugby, writes Steve Bale.

This is the opportunity McGeechan has been awaiting since he ceased international coaching with the Lions' tour of New Zealand last year. He was previously reported to have rejected a pounds 60,000-a-year offer from the Midlands club.

Yesterday, McGeechan confessed he had never seen Northampton play, not in the 15 or so years since he played for Headingley at any rate. But he already knows that there is immense talent at Franklin's Gardens and that therefore Northampton under-achieved in finishing fifth in last season's Courage Championship.

'Northampton were talking about giving me complete freedom in developing it as I want,' he said. 'It's quite exciting to be involved with it full time.' This is the club who pioneered appointments such as McGeechan's when Barrie Corless, now with Gloucester, was coaching director from 1988-93.

It is McGeechan's second career change in four years. He gave up teaching in 1990 to take up a position with Scottish Life and he will not be completely severing his links with the insurance company. His intention is to move from Leeds, where he was born (to Scottish parents) nearly 48 years ago, to Northampton.

Last season, he assisted with the coaching at London Scottish but was unable to prevent their relegation from the First Division. His last serious involvement in club coaching was while he was still playing for Headingley in the late Seventies.

McGeechan had been an illustrious player of the mid- Seventies, appearing at centre in all four Tests of the most successful of all Lions tours, to South Africa in 1974, and also all four (one as a replacement) on the most acrimonious, to New Zealand three years later.

His 32 Scottish caps included nine as captain and he coached Scotland from 1988- 93. His Lions life continued as coach of the winning 1989 tour to Australia and the losing 1993 tour to New Zealand and it is this pedigree that has now turned him into a Saint.