December is the cruellest month, especially in World Cup year. Two of the southern hemisphere's leading coaches, Rudi Straeuli of South Africa and John Mitchell of New Zealand, are fighting for their livelihoods after failing to fulfil expectations in the global tournament, while Bernard Laporte of France is reportedly considering a return to club rugby - possibly on this side of the water - following the Tricolores' tame defeat at the hands of England. And in Scotland, the chief executive of the union is already history.
Bill Watson, who also sits on the board of European Rugby Cup Ltd, was sacked yesterday, with an abruptness that might have made a multinational corporation blanch. "I've been looking at the whole picture of Scottish rugby since I was appointed in the summer, and there has been an overwhelming head of steam for reform," said David Mackay, the chairman of the SRU's executive committee. "I'd like to see a good businessman with some involvement in sport showing an interest in this challenging job. I'd also like to see us doing all the things good businesses do: handling finances and improving performance at all levels."
The Scots are in a bad way domestically, and have been since the dawning of the professional era. Borrowings amount to some £16m and there will be a £4.5m shortfall this year as a direct result of the World Cup and the consequent absence of an autumn international programme at Murrayfield. Worse still, there is little widespread support for the three professional sides - Edinburgh, Glasgow and Borders - who replaced traditional clubs like Melrose and Boroughmuir.
Watson cannot, and is not, being blamed for all the ills of rugby north of the border, but as Mackay said: "The buck stops with the chief executive, and a man in that position knows the risks, just as I know the risks in my role as chairman." The SRU will advertise the post as a matter of urgency.
The Bath scrum-half, Martyn Wood, will appear before a Rugby Football Union disciplinary tribunal in Leeds tonight following his dismissal in the early stages of Saturday's Premiership victory over Leicester at Welford Road. Wood was sent off for allegedly stamping on an opponent.Reuse content