Gloucester started the day by confirming the signing of the World Cup-winning All Black scrum-half Jimmy Cowan – the latest in a number of impressive deals negotiated by their head coach, Bryan Redpath – and ended it by announcing the immediate departure of... Bryan Redpath.
The former Scotland international said he had resigned "with a heavy heart" after a run of below-par performances and the club insisted the decision had been made purely on the basis of results, but there were very few supporters who took the explanation at face value. Most believe Redpath is on his way to Sale, who visit Kingsholm for an important match this weekend.
Gloucester were not slow to threaten their Premiership rivals with legal action if Redpath does end up at there next season. The Gloucester director, Ryan Walkinshaw, tweeted: "If we find any evidence to increase our suspicions that Sale have manufactured this we'll fight back with a no holds barred legal attack."
Redpath guided the West Countrymen to a Premiership semi-final and the LV Cup last season, but he has not enjoyed similar success this time round. He has, however, overseen the rapid development of some brilliant young talent and plotted a famous Heineken Cup win over Toulouse.
Moreover, he was in the process of securing qualification for Europe's elite competition next season. Gloucester's principal rivals for the sixth and last guaranteed place? Sale.
Steve Diamond, the head cook and bottle washer at Sale, has been looking for a new chief coach since showing Tony Hanks the door last month. He said at the start of the week that the interviewing process was under way, with some high-profile candidates – the former Italy and Japan coach John Kirwan, the former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan, the current Auckland Blues boss Pat Lam – on the list. But Redpath, who played much of his rugby at the club, was considered favourite for the job even before yesterday's events.
"It's a results-driven business we're in," he said in a statement. "I hold up my hand and take full responsibility for the fact that we've not performed as well as we should have. I have dearly loved my time at Gloucester: it's a fantastic club in a true rugby city, with devoted, passionate supporters. But I think it's now someone else's turn to take charge." That someone will, in the short term, be the forwards coach, Carl Hogg.
Together with Cowan, two of English rugby's hottest properties – the No 8 Ben Morgan and the midfielder Billy Twelvetrees – will join the fast-improving Freddie Burns, Jonny May, Henry Trinder, Charlie Sharples and Shaun Knight on the Kingsholm roster next term. But there will also be some significant departures, including the club captain, Luke Narraway, and the England centre Mike Tindall. Their situations have caused Redpath a good deal of grief and may have influenced his decision to move on.
There were similarly hard decisions taken elsewhere. Richard Hill, the Worcester head coach, will release two long-serving and utterly dedicated Sixways favourites – the centre Dale Rasmussen and the loose forward Kai Horstmann – at the end of the season, while the 37-year-old Bath prop Duncan Bell has announced his impending retirement after making more than 200 appearances for the club.
Bell's exit will be especially poignant. Yesterday he revealed he has been fighting a battle with depression. "Privately, Duncan has had some considerable challenges in his life and I cannot speak highly enough of the courage he is now showing in speaking openly about his illness," said Damian Hopley, the Rugby Players' Association chief executive.
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