Diamond can give Saracens cutting edge

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It is just possible that Steve Diamond, a tough-nut career hooker from Manchester, will succeed where half the southern hemisphere transparently failed by solving the mystery of Saracens RFC over the next couple of seasons. There again, he could find himself in the celebrated company of Francois Pienaar, Wayne Shelford and Rod Kafer, none of whom came close to identifying a method of bringing tangible success, bought and paid for by the indefatigable owner, Nigel Wray, but never delivered, to a club of big names and even bigger frustration.

It is just possible that Steve Diamond, a tough-nut career hooker from Manchester, will succeed where half the southern hemisphere transparently failed by solving the mystery of Saracens RFC over the next couple of seasons. There again, he could find himself in the celebrated company of Francois Pienaar, Wayne Shelford and Rod Kafer, none of whom came close to identifying a method of bringing tangible success, bought and paid for by the indefatigable owner, Nigel Wray, but never delivered, to a club of big names and even bigger frustration.

Diamond, who moved from Sale to Vicarage Road last season, was promoted from assistant coach to top dog yesterday following the resignation of Kafer, a former Wallaby centre who is likely to resurface in his native Australia, probably with one of the Super 12 franchises. Kafer cleared his desk after discussions with his countryman Mark Sinderberry, the Saracens chief executive. "Following discussions about extending my time here until the end of the 2007 season, I came to the conclusion that my preference was to seek opportunities elsewhere after completing my current contract, due to expire in May 2005," he said. "In light of this, Mark and I have decided that it is in the club's best interests that I stand down as head coach immediately."

For his part, Sinderberry did the usual by publicly congratulating Kafer on his efforts. "Rod took over the club at a difficult time and leaves us in a better position, with a more focused coaching and playing structure," he said. While that may be so - Kafer certainly ran a tighter ship than Shelford, whose unorthodoxy knew no bounds - poor results and the apparent absence of light at the end of the tunnel left the Australian high, dry and vulnerable.

Unlike Kafer, the new man has a track record of achievement. Diamond worked alongside Jim Mallinder in coaching Sale to the Parker Pen Shield in 2002 and helped establish the likes of Charlie Hodgson and Mark Cueto as players of international quality. He has been involved in various England set-ups, most prominently with the second-string A side and is an up-front, my-way-or-the-highway sort who should, at the very least, inject some realism into Saracens, a club more used to fantasising about results than obtaining them. As they have been drawn into what promises to be a vicious relegation scrap between now and the end of April, this will be no bad thing.

Across the Channel in France, the Tricolore hierarchy are scratching around for an outside-half suitably equipped to face Scotland and England in the early rounds of this season's Six Nations Championship. Both Frédéric Michalak, of Toulouse, and Julien Peyrelongue, of Biarritz, are struggling for fitness after picking up injuries on Heineken Cup duty last weekend, and are looking at two months of enforced inactivity. Michalak turned an ankle in the win over Northampton, while Peyrelongue twanged knee ligaments in the Basques' defeat of Calvisano.

Comments