Ben Cairns to step down as Stirling Wolves head coach at end of Super6 Championship

Amicable parting of the ways was agreed prior to current campaign kicking-off

Ben Cairns will step down as head coach of Stirling Wolves at the end of the current Super6 Championship. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Ben Cairns will step down as head coach of Stirling Wolves at the end of the current Super6 Championship. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

BEN CAIRNS will step down as head coach of Stirling Wolves at the end of the current Super6 Championship. He made the decision and informed the club in August, before the campaign started, and all parties have stressed that they are parting company on amicable terms.

“It is a purely personal decision, and it is not based on one thing,” said Cairns. “It is ultimately based on me looking ahead and thinking I don’t see myself staying in the role into 2023.

“I’ll have been at the club for nearly four years at the end of this season, so it has been a long spell,” added the former Scotland centre, who is one of only two original Super6 coaches still in situ, alongside Graham Shiel of Boroughmuir Bears. “It has come with a lot of challenges. I’ve chucked a lot of time and effort at it and made lots of sacrifices on the family side of things to try and push things forward.


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“I just need a new challenge. It is nothing more than that. The toll of the travel from Edinburgh to Stirling and the time away from family when they are young – I have a seven-year-old and a 20-month-old daughter – is time I’m not going to get back, so I’ve just decided that I need to put them first.”

Stirling have had a tough start to the season with a combination of a crippling injury-list and Scotland under-20s squad members being unavailable leading to 45 players being used over the six games played so far. They have lost all six of those matches, including a couple of heavy defeats in recent weeks to Watsonians and Ayrshire Bulls, but Cairns stressed that this has nothing to do with him moving on.

“The key thing for me is that the decision was made a while ago,” he explained. “Although it is only coming to light now, the club has been aware of it for a while, and I was keen to make sure that was the case so that we could have as smooth a transition as possible. The last thing I wanted to do was leave them in the lurch.

“I’m fully committed to the end of the season. When I made the decision, I envisaged us competing for the Championship and going out on a proper high. Clearly that isn’t likely given how the first six matches have panned out, but we all feel we still have plenty to play for in this championship in terms of giving a true representation of what this club is about and building for next year.”

 

Eddie Pollock, the club’s Director of Rugby, paid tribute to Cairns’ contribution over the last four years.

“Ben is leaving us with a fantastic set-up off the field as well as on,” he said. “We’ve got a great relationship with Stirling University now, which means we have access to fantastic facilities and support. He’s done a lot of work across the club as well, not just with the Super6 team, and that has been key to us managing to build a very positive and co-operative environment here at Bridgehaugh.

“We’re disappointed to see him go, but ultimately delighted that he’s been with us this long, because the work he has done has been above and beyond.”

In terms of the timing of the announcement, Pollock explained: “Ben spoke to John Gibson [club President] and myself about it back in early August but we didn’t want to take it to the players at that point with a new season to focus on. So, the plan was always to tell the players around this time because we’re at the stage now where we are looking at signing guys for next year and it wouldn’t be fair to them to have those discussions without them knowing that Ben isn’t going to be here.

“The other important thing is that the job isn’t finished yet. We’ve still got four games to go. We’ve been without a lot of players through injury and the unavailability of the national under-20s squad members, so it has been a real hard shift, but we’re starting to get players back now and it is really important we finish the season on a high.

“Short-term, myself and Adam Ashe [former Glasgow and Scotland No 8 who is now an assistant coach with the Wolves] will look after things on an interim basis, because we need to get contracts in place and a squad together for next season.

“And we’ve already started looking at recruitment for a head coach position – we’ve not advertised yet but we’re thinking about who is out there and who might be a good fit to help drive things forward.

He added: “Although results at the moment don’t show it, there was a huge improvement from where we were in the first years of Super6 to where we were in the last Sprint Series just before the summer, when we were one try off winning the whole thing. The last few weeks have been difficult, with a lot of stuff out-with our control, but I still see us in a good place to move forward.

“We’ve all been in the game long enough to know that now is not the time to panic. Things go in cycles, and we believe that if you work hard in these situations then you do eventually come out the other side, so that’s what we’re doing.”

 

The squad was informed of Cairns’ imminent departure on Tuesday night with Pollock revealing that the tone of that team meeting had been very constructive, immediately followed by a good training session.

“If there wasn’t some disappointment amongst the squad, that would be a concern, but from my point of view, I’ll be really disappointed if it doesn’t galvanise them for the rest of the season,” said Cairns.

“I hope it gives the boys a little bit more of an incentive to finish on a high. It is unlikely we are going to make the play-offs, but it is more about turning the corner by getting a few ‘Ws’ on the board.”

As to what the future holds, Cairns wants to continue coaching but says there is nothing concrete on the horizon.

“I’ll be looking at what’s the right fit, and the right challenge, and we’ll see where it takes me,” he said. “I get that there will be some speculation about where I might go next, but there is nothing to report on that at the moment.”

Club President Gibson concluded: “It is worth reiterating that as a club we wish Ben all the best in the future, because we recognise that he’s put his heart and soul into developing out Super6 squad over the last four years, and we fully respect the reasons why he has chosen to go on to pastures new.

“When we went into this four years ago, we selected the best coach. That’s a fact. And we still believe that.

“As a Super6 team, we have a plan in place to move forward and we’ll stick to that knowing how much Ben has done to lay the foundations for better days ahead.”


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About David Barnes 3043 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

3 Comments

  1. A big loss. Ben has done a great job at Stirling, not just for the Super 6 but for the wider club. He has raised standards and backed young players. Top man.

  2. This is sad news. Ben Cairns to me is what Super 6 is all about as a coaching pathway. More than anyone else in the competition he has given youth a chance, and Stirling have already helped a significant number of players into the pro game in the time he has been there. He produced an outstanding series in the Summer sprint with a young team, and factors beyond his control have really determined the disappointments of this championship. I believe he is a future pro coach so I hope a suitable opportunity opens up for him somewhere else soon.

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