Scottish boss defends under-fire Johnson

April 10, 2014 - 1:02:14 am

LONDON: Scottish Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson has denied claims Scott Johnson was rewarded for failure following the national side’s miserable 2014 Six Nations campaign.

Australian coach Johnson was in charge of Scotland as they came within a last-ditch drop-goal of suffering a tournament whitewash but is now set to become the SRU’s director of rugby with New Zealand’s Vern Cotter, currently in charge of French club Clermont, taking over as national coach.

Scotland enjoyed a tense Six Nations win over fellow strugglers Italy which was precious little consolation for a series of heavy defeats including a 20-0 loss to England at Murrayfield — the first time Scotland had been ‘nilled’ by their oldest foes since 1978 — and a 51-3 thrashing by Wales in a match where full-back Stuart Hogg was sent off.

But Dodson, speaking on Johnson’s new role, said: “We need clarity on this issue. We appointed Scott to be director of rugby first. Then we got Vern Cotter as head coach. We knew we would have to wait for Vern as he wanted to finish the job he started at Clermont.

“We asked Scott to stand in during the interim. He had no ambition to do that but we asked him. He was happy to do it on one proviso, and that was to bring on Scottish players in larger numbers.

“In the period he’s been in charge, he has capped 17 new players, so we have a squad that is richer and deeper than ever.

“But as for the backlash about Scott being promoted, I’d say that he was never ‘promoted’ — he already had the job.

“We always knew there would be a problem with the 14-month period but Scott did what we asked him to do and he delivered what we asked him to deliver.”

Johnson won just five of his 16 games in charge but Dodson said it was Calcutta Cup defeat by England that led to a torrent of criticism.

In light of those damning statistics, Dodson - who insists he never made any attempt to lure Cotter from France early - is praying the New Zealander proves worth the wait.

“The performance against England was what caused us problems. We did not compete against them in a Calcutta Cup match here at Murrayfield. It can’t get much worse.

“That was unacceptable to us but it was also unacceptable to the coaching team and the players.

“People have every right to vent, and the fact that they have strong feelings is a good thing because if they didn’t care, we’d really be in trouble. But we are taking those views on board and trying to change things so we don’t have that kind of performance in future.”

Scotland have only two professional sides to draft from in Glasgow and Edinburgh, with a third in the rugby heartland of the Borders wound up several years ago after failing to pay its way.

Now there are reports that businessman Martin Gilbert is looking to set up a professional side in Aberdeen.

But whether that goes ahead or not, Dodson said the game in Scotland had to adjust to modern realities.

“We have never come to terms with professionalism in Scottish rugby and that’s where the problems that still dog us come from.

“We have to make sure we future-proof Scottish rugby so we can compete on a global scale. That means getting more people playing the game, spotting talent earlier, making sure those selected as elite players have the right competitive environment to play in.”AFP

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