Rugby Union: McGeechan stepping down

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WHEN Ian McGeechan coaches the British Isles in New Zealand next summer he will have become the ex-Scotland coach. After 10 years in charge of national sides at one level or another, he said yesterday that he would step down at the end of the season.

McGeechan, a boyish 46, seriously considered his position after the 1991 World Cup and, with another Five Nations under way, feels he has given as much as he can. His principal achievement with Scotland was the 1990 Grand Slam in conjunction with Jim Telfer, but such was his impact with the Lions in Australia in 1989 he was invited to do the job again in New Zealand, an unprecedented honour.

'There comes a time when you have to put your family and career first and make room for someone else,' he said. 'I need a break.' McGeechan has already declared his preference for the succession - his present assistant coach, Douglas Morgan - but the Scotland A coach David Johnston would make a powerful case for himself if he made a success of Scotland's close- season tour to Fiji and Tonga.

McGeechan won 32 caps between 1972 and 1979 and appeared in all eight Tests during the Lions' tours of South Africa and New Zealand in 1974 and 1977. He started coaching Scotland B in 1983, was assistant to Derrick Grant during the 1987 World Cup and after, and finally became the senior coach in 1988 when one of the first things he did was to take Telfer, coach of the 1984 Grand Slam Scots, on board.

McGeechan left teaching after the 1989 Lions tour to join the insurance company Scottish Life in the knowledge that his rugby needs would be provided for. Initially used as a public-relations officer, he moved from Leeds to Edinburgh last summer to become the company's training manager.

Speculation began yesterday that once his Scotland commitment is over McGeechan may be interested in a paid post with a club - which would inevitably mean south of the border. The man himself denied it, though he was careful not to rule anything out. 'It's great for me at the moment,' he said. 'I have a job I enjoy and I live less than a mile from Murrayfield. Having operated in the international sphere, it would be difficult to operate at club level.' Which may not be sufficiently unequivocal to prevent clubs beating a path to his door.