Sir Ian McGeechan to help pick new coach of England

FORMER Scotland coach Sir Ian McGeechan has backed current incumbent Andy Robinson as he prepares to help appoint the new England team chief.

McGeechan has been revealed as one of the members of a five-man panel pulled together by the RFU to deliberate over the candidates to replace former manager Martin Johnson. Stuart Lancaster, the former Scotland under-21 player, is in interim charge until the end of the RBS Six Nations Championship, and one of four candidates for the position through to the 2015 World Cup.

The others are believed to be Nick Mallett, the former South African coach born in England, former All Black wing and Italy coach John Kirwan and Irishman Eddie O’Sullivan, who was up against Robinson for the Scotland post.

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McGeechan, the current director of rugby at Bath, is joined by Irishman Conor O’Shea as the Premier Rugby representatives on the interview panel alongside RFU Rugby Operations Director Rob Andrew, Kevin Bowring, the RFU Head of Elite Coaching Development, and former Wales coach, and new RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie.

McGeechan refused to be drawn into discussion of the England job yesterday but did insist Scotland are on the right road with Robinson, despite the team suffering a fifth-straight defeat at the weekend. He said: “I just think they are very unlucky at the moment. If they had played against England as they played at the weekend they would have beaten them. They are really positive and there are some good young players there.

“You have to look beyond the numbers sometimes. If you’re asking ‘are Scotland in a better place now than they have been for some time?’ then the answer is ‘absolutely’.

“They have been in positions where they could have had five or six wins in the last 13, at least, or five wins out of the last five games actually. They have been in the running with all of them.

“When you are looking at building and developing something, when you have groups of players coming together, then you have to look beyond the pure numbers, because the performances are more powerful than some of the numbers suggest.”

There has been speculation south of the Border that, were Scotland to finish the championship with no wins or just a solitary victory against Italy, for the third year in a row under Robinson, that the coach might be tempted to walk away.

He has been touted for a return to Bath, where he was a legendary player and Heineken Cup-winning coach before he moved into the Test arena with England.

Robinson, whose family still live in Bath, insisted at the weekend that he was not planning to leave his Scotland post and SRU chief executive Mark Dodson has stated that he wants to give the coach until the 2015 Rugby World Cup to turn around Scottish fortunes.

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McGeechan quit a role as SRU director of rugby in 2005 to return to coaching, commented: “He’s on a five-year contract so everything [about a Bath return] has to be innuendo.

“That [quitting Scotland] is a decision Robbo has to make. Certainly, there is no one at Bath who can make that decision for Andy Robinson.”

O’Shea defended Premiership Rugby’s role in choosing the new England manager, saying: “It is vital the 12 clubs and national team are working together.”