McGeechan reveals future blueprint


Scotland's new director of rugby, Ian McGeechan, has expressed a desire to raise the profile of club rugby as part of his blueprint for the future of the game.

McGeechan's successor as coach of the national side, Australian Matt Williams, recently unveiled his "Fortress Scotland" plan, revealing that all future Scotland international players would have to play their rugby north of the border.

However, with the club game having taken a dent with the onset of professionalism, McGeechan wants to ensure players have a level of competition which can support the development of the country's best talents.

He admitted that might mean a change to the structure of the club game, with the February 8th open day and the review undertaken by Genesis - the leading strategic management consultants who undertook a similar project for the Irish Rugby Union and the Football Association of Ireland - crucial in steering the way forward.

But McGeechan stressed the need to bolster the links between the nation's top clubs and the professional super-teams of Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Borders.

He explained: "What we're trying to do is create a system which is always looking to move forward.

"You can't get away from the fact that the majority of the money is generated by the international team and its programmes. We've got to try and set up things which make it possible for the international team to perform, the professional teams to perform and a structure behind that that is dynamic.

"We have to have the links between international management and players and professional management, but also the link, which is so important, between the professional teams and the clubs. Our national game is our club game, our international game is our pro game. Our national game could actually be a very vibrant sport."

McGeechan sees the links between the club game and the professional ranks as vitally important. "Domestically, the competitions, how we look at the games in the districts, how we go from districts to national to Premiership, is the key," he said.

"How that Premiership links with our professional game is a vital link and that is the one we've got to get right.

"What you want is to draw the clubs in as part of the whole process, they're not separate from it. It's not something which is going through the professional teams, it's going via the top clubs into the professional teams.

"What we want below the professional teams is a competition and a group of clubs saying 'the players who become professional' have to be in the system, have to be playing here.

"Matt (Williams) wants them playing in Scotland, we want them coming through the system and they'll get picked for the pro teams out of the Premiership."

Meanwhile, Scottish outhalf Gregor Townsend has agreed to join South African side The Sharks for the 2004 Super 12 season.

The 30-year-old international was brought in after Sharks coach Kevin Putt had failed to find a suitable number 10 in the South African provinces.

The Sharks need a back-up for first-choice Butch James as Herkie Kruger has been banned for two years after testing positive for the steroid nandrolone.