PHILIP DOYLE will not return from lockdown to coach the Scotland Women team through their three unplayed Six Nations matches against France (on weekend of 24th October), Wales (31st October) and Italy (5th December), with Bryan Easson taking over the reins.
The Italy match will double-up as part of a round-robin qualifier for the 2021 World Cup, which will also involve games against Ireland and either Russia, the Netherland or Spain on 12th and 19th December.
Irishman Doyle is currently shielding on medical grounds following the Covid-19 pandemic and with his contract ending in December, it has been agreed that he will not return to the role following furlough leave “to avoid any potential disruption to the team”.
It brings a frustrating 16 month tenure with the team to a rather flat end. While the team showed encouraging form during their tour of South Africa last summer, they then came up short against both Wales and Japan in the Autumn, but picked up a good win away to Spain during the lead-up to this year’s Six Nations.
Unfortunately, the championship was blighted by bad luck. The team lost a nail-biter to Ireland in Dublin first up and then had their home match against England switched for Scotstoun to Murrayfield and played behind closed doors 24 hours later than scheduled due to extreme weather conditions. They were hammered 53-0 in that match before their three remaining games fell victim to the pandemic.
“While it is very frustrating not to be able to continue as Scotland Head Coach due to the restrictions around Covid-19 I feel it is the right thing to do both for me and also to enable the team to face the coming vital set of matches with some continuity in their coaching,” he said. “I have greatly enjoyed working with the team and feel we’re making good progress on and off the pitch as a group. I will miss being with the players and wish them well in the games ahead and will be watching with interest.”
Doyle stated soon after his appointment that his sole priority was to help Scotland qualify for the 2021 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand, but he won’t now get a chance to do that.
“I would like to thank Philip for his significant contribution to the development of the Scotland Women’s team during his time as Head Coach and he will be missed by all of us connected to the team,” said Gemma Fay, Scottish Rugby’s Head of Women and Girls’ Rugby.
“It is obviously disappointing he is unable to continue his role at a key time in the team’s preparations ahead of qualification for the 2021 Rugby World Cup, but the Covid-19 crisis has put many things in perspective and clearly Philip’s health must be the priority here and we would not want him to compromise that in any way.”
Easson is well placed to take over the role having previously operated as Doyle’s assistant. “I have really enjoyed working with this group of players and know how committed they are to progressing as a team,” he said.
“Philip is a passionate coach and so it is unfortunate he can’t continue for the games we have ahead.
“As a group we are focussed on the qualification for the World Cup in 2021 and so it was an easy decision to make when I was offered the chance to take on the Head Coach responsibilities. I am looking forward to coaching with his group of players and staff again in the weeks ahead and know we will pull together and work hard to reach our objectives.”
Fay added: “It is very important we maintain continuity at this difficult time and so I am very pleased we are in a position to appoint Bryan as our Interim Head Coach. His working knowledge of the team to date and coaching ability will be key as we take on the challenge of the matches ahead in the coming months.”