Ian McGeechan may be considered good enough to coach the British and Irish Lions for an unprecedented fourth time – three times more than anyone else – but he is no longer the man for Wasps. Last night, he stepped down from his position as director of rugby at Adams Park after several days of speculation over his future. The deposed champions went out of their way to paint a picture of amicable separation, but boardroom dissatisfaction with this season's performances is at the root of the break-up.
The 62-year-old Scot may yet be offered a consultancy role by the directors, but there is increasing talk of him moving to the heavily-financed London Scottish club, back in the national leagues after a slow and painful recovery from serious financial trauma that resulted in them being dumped out of the Premiership a decade ago. Senior Wasps officials were scheduled to clarify the situation this afternoon.
"This decision has been part of an ongoing dialogue with the club, which began in January when I informed the executive chairman, Mark Rigby, that one of the options I was considering was to finish at the end of the season," said McGeechan, who succeeded Warren Gatland as director of rugby four years ago and had 12 months left on his contract. For his part, Rigby said a successor would be appointed shortly.
Eddie Jones, the former Wallaby coach who made an abrupt departure from Saracens earlier this year, was tentatively approached some weeks ago, but decided against taking on another job at Premiership level and moved to Japan instead. Dean Ryan, a Wasps player for much of his career, has also been linked with the role, but there has been no firm indication that he is about to leave his post at Gloucester. One individual definitely in the frame is Tony Hanks, who was summoned from his native New Zealand for a second stint at the club midway through the campaign.
McGeechan's chief lieutenant, Shaun Edwards, is expected to stay at the club, although the Wasps hierarchy may look closely at his continuing involvement with the Welsh national team. Both men split their time between club rugby and international commitments this season, with McGeechan having his wages paid by the Lions. As Wasps struggled to live up to their own high standards, the wisdom of this arrangement was questioned by board members and supporters alike. McGeechan is one of the Lions' legendary figures, but his regular employers have decided they want someone to be good enough for them, and them alone.
Wasps are known to be under pressure financially, but Premiership officers insist the elite end of the English club game remains in good shape, despite the difficulties being suffered by the Ireland-based broadcasters Setanta, who have bought partial rights to live matches from the start of the 2010-11 season, and the failure to agree a new long-term deal with the drinks giant Diageo, the league's principal backers.
"There is nothing sinister about this new deal," said John Varney, the commercial director of Premier Rugby. "We're confident our partnership with Diageo will continue and we'll be talking again in six months. As for Setanta, it would be wrong of me to say that we're not keeping a close eye on things. It is no secret that they have some problems, but as they have paid us the agreed deposit, there is no immediate cause for concern. Should the worst come to the worst, we'll take the match package back to the market place."