Scotland think Australian after McGeechan

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The Independent Online

Matt Williams will take over as head coach of Scotland in succession to Ian McGeechan. The former Leinster, Ireland A and New South Wales coach, will take up the post after this autumn's World Cup in Australia. He has agreed a contract which will take him through to the World Cup in 2007. Williams has made a big impact on the Irish game after working as Leinster coach for the last three years and also Ireland A boss and national side defensive coach since 2001.

Williams, a teacher, started in coaching at club level with Western Suburbs in Sydney in 1991. He became head coach of the Eastwood club in Sydney in 1993 and a year later gained representative recognition when he was appointed fitness and skills coach for the Emerging Wallabies' tour of Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.

In 1995 his coaching stints included New South Wales A, New South Wales Sevens, and an assistant's post for an Australian XV against England A. He was also a coaching assistant at the Wallaby World Cup camps.

In 1996 he became manager and assistant coach for the NSW Waratahs' Super 12 campaign and then for the next three years he was head coach for the Waratahs. He moved to Ireland to work as backs coach for Leinster in 1999 before later becoming head coach.

McGeechan said: "Matt Williams is a forward-thinking coach who wants to be party to the further development of Scottish rugby. I'm excited by his appointment."

Gloucester have signed Paul Johnstone on a two-year deal from Bristol. Johnstone, who Gloucester fans will remember for his solo try in the 2002 Zurich Championship final, can play at either prop or hooker.

Gloucester's veteran prop Andy Deacon has agreed to sign a new one-year deal. Deacon, who turns 38 next month, was the oldest registered player in the Premiership this year.

Birmingham & Solihull have signed former Scotland and Lions fly-half Craig Chalmers on a one-year contract. Chalmers has joined from Worcester, for whom he played two seasons of National League One rugby. He will also assist Phil Maynard, the Bees' director of rugby, in coaching at Sharmans Cross Road.

Scrum-half Chris Cusiter is the Borders' first signing of the close season on a two-year deal. The 20-year-old made his Scotland A debut as a second-half substitute in the victory against Romania in November.

The France prop Pieter de Villiers, ruled out of the Six Nations after testing positive for ecstasy and cocaine, returned to the squad today when coach Bernard Laporte named the South African-born player for the summer tour to the southern hemisphere.

De Villiers, 30, always protested his innocence and suggested his drink had been spiked, but was left out of the French squad for their 2003 Six Nations championship defence.