CIARAN BEATTIE has been appointed head coach of the Scotland Men’s 7s squad, meaning he will not lead the Heriot’s franchise into the inaugural season of Super 6.
He is the second Super 6 coach to have been moved up to a more senior role in the SRU hierarchy since the appointments were announced in mid-December, following in the footsteps of Stevie Lawrie of Watsonians, who was handed a role as an assistant coach at Edinburgh in February.
Beattie will leave his current position at the end of July, and will have his work cut out in his new job. It is understood that the Scotland 7s squad is set to be reduced from 17 core players to 13 for next season’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series campaign.
Heriots’ director of rugby Neil Meikle said his club wishes Beattie all the best in the future and added that work has already begun on recruiting a suitable replacement – although the Goldenacre outfit are not going to jump at the first candidate they set eyes on.
“We’re pretty far down the line with finalising our Super 6 squad so we’re really comfortable about being ready to go when the season kicks off in early November,” he said.
“The key for us is to get the right person for the job. We are in the fortunate position of having Phil Smith and Fin Gillies already involved at Goldenacre, who both have extensive experience as head coaches in the Premiership, plus several other very knowledgeable and competent coaches also at the club, so we’re not going to rush into an appointment.
“I’d like to stress that Ciaran has been completely professional in the way he has handled a potentially difficult situation. He informed us immediately when he decided he would like to apply for the 7s job, and he has been up-front and honest every step of the way, which has allowed us to adapt to our changing circumstances.”
The outsider with the inside line
Beattie was regarded as a left field selection when unveiled as Heriot’s coach back in December. The former Selkirk scrum-half had spells playing with the now defunct Border Reivers, Scotland 7s and Edinburgh, but was plagued by a chronic pelvis injury which limited his game time and ultimately forced him into early retirement at the age of 21.
The Borderer moved into analysis in order to stay connected with the game, spending six years with the SRU working mostly with the senior Scotland team under Gav Scott, but also touching on 7s, the two pro teams and the national age-grade programme.
His first step into coaching was at Melrose under John Dalziel, before linking up with Loughborough University in 2014, initially as defence and backs coach and finishing up as head coach. He returned north in the summer of 2017 as assistant coach to the Scotland Women’s team and ‘Technical Blueprint Development Manager’, and was unveiled as the new Heriot’s Super 6 head coach at the tail-end of 2018.
One of Beattie’s first acts at Heriot’s was to recruit his friend Gillies, who played for the club before moving into the pro game with Glasgow Warriors and Scotland 7s. After hanging up his his boots following a succession of neck injuries at the ripe old age of 25, Gillies has spent the last three seasons as head coach at Glasgow Hawks.
Meanwhile, Smith led Heriot’s to two league titles and two cup successes (including the double in 2016) during his seven year tenure as head coach up until the end of last season. He was supposed to carry on at Goldenacre overseeing the ‘Club XV’ after the summer but it now seems likely that he will take on a more hands-on role with the Super 6 side when the first tranche of their season kicks-off in just over four months’ time.
Both Gillies and Smith are full-time teachers on permanent contracts who chose not to apply for Super 6 head coach roles when the positions were first advertised.
No hiding place
Beattie said the opportunity to coach the Scotland 7s squad was too good to pass up.
“There is no hiding my love for sevens,” he explained. “This was a job that has been on my radar and if I had the opportunity I would go for it, so that was why I applied. This was always the route I wanted to go down and I’m really looking forward to getting started.
“I’ve been involved in the past as a player, a manager and an analyst. I love the intensity of it. It’s a tough sport for everyone involved, which magnifies everything to a higher-level, day in, day out.
“I think it plays an important role in developing not just players but everyone within the sevens group as there are so many different elements to it. The sevens programme has moved on so much since I played with everyone in prime condition mentally and physically. I can’t wait to get underway.
“I’ve been greatly impressed with Heriot’s during my time there, both the people and the club. I’ve felt privileged to have held the role there and worked with some fantastic people and I’m confident they will be in a great position for Super6 when it begins.”