Rugby Union: McGeechan may become Saint

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The Independent Online
IAN McGEECHAN, largely regarded as a saint already in rugby circles, could be on the way to becoming the salaried version with Northampton. The Scotland and Lions coach has had talks with the Saints, who are looking for a replacement paid coaching administrator after losing Barrie Corless to Gloucester this season.

McGeechan has been recharging his batteries since stepping down from his Scottish post last March and taking charge of the Lions for a second time in New Zealand during the summer. Last Saturday, though, he was seen in Northampton and yesterday the club confirmed they had interviewed the 47-year-old former international.

Murray Holmes, the Saints chairman, said: 'I have spoken to Ian McGeechan and he is having a think about it.' Life without Corless, who set the ball rolling for paid administrators in England, has not been so cosy for the club this season. With losses exceeding wins, they lie fifth in the Courage First Division. More embarrassing, though, was the Pilkington Cup fifth-round defeat at Gloucester.

Corless was believed to be earning in excess of pounds 30,000 a year at Northampton. Meanwhile, McGeechan, who has been advising Second Division London Scottish on flying visits this winter, was yesterday maintaining a low profile. 'I have nothing to say at the moment,' he said, although he has never discounted the possibility of making a full return.

Indeed, it is widely assumed in Scotland that he will be back coaching the national side in next year's World Cup in South Africa. When he hung up his Scots tracksuit a year ago, he said: 'I would like to maintain my strong links with Scottish rugby.' Now, he says, moves in that direction will have to come from the Scottish Rugby Union.

While McGeechan bides his time, Wednesday signalled a busy start to a television bidding battle in which the BBC is seeking to maintain its hold on the screening of domestic rugby. This is now a three-way fight, BSkyB having confirmed its entry into a contest also involving ITV.

Officials of the four home unions have now seen presentations from the three companies and sealed bids, possibly over pounds 20m, have to be handed in by today week.