KOBE STEELERS have appointed Mike Blair as one of director of rugby Dave Rennie’s assistant coaches. The surprise move was announced this morning [Friday 23 June] on the Japanese club’s official websites.
“This move to Kobe has been a wonderful opportunity for me and my family, and I am grateful to be part of such a wonderful organisation,” Blair was quoted as saying. “I stayed in Kobe with the Scottish national team for the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and thought Kobe would be a great place to live.
“I am also very excited to be working with my former Glasgow Warriors coach Dave Rennie again and look forward to learning a lot from him and other coaches. The Kobe Steelers are filled with extremely talented players and I look forward to bringing out their full potential and contributing to the club’s success.”
Blair announced earlier this year that he would be stepping down at the end of his second season as Edinburgh’s head coach, having decided that he wanted to focus henceforth on becoming “a world-class attack coach”. He duly left Edinburgh when his contract expired at the end of last month, although he had said he would consider staying on as an assistant under a new head coach.
The playing staff also said they were keen for Blair to stay, but the club’s position was that any reappointment would have to be decided on by a new head coach when they were appointed. Edinburgh’s “lead rugby consultant” Steve Diamond is at present taking charge of pre-season training and the announcement of a new head coach does not appear to be imminent.
Edinburgh reacted to the news via social media, saying: “All at the club wish Mike and his family the very best for this move. We can’t thank him enough for his part in driving Edinburgh Rugby forward.”
Rennie left the Warriors in 2020 and spent three years in charge of Australia before being dismissed at the start of this year. His appointment as the Steelers’ director of rugby was announced last month, when he said:
“I am delighted to announce I will be joining Kobe Steelers as director of rugby for the next season. I have always wanted to coach in Japan, having coached in NZ, Europe and internationally with the Wallabies.
“Kobe is a great place to live and a great club, whom I’ve had a strong relationship with since my time at the Chiefs and I’m rapt to reconnect with them. While they’ve had a tough year in 2023, we are aspirational and have good people who are prepared to work hard.
“While Steph [his wife] and I will spend the majority of the next three months travelling, I have already started thinking about the 2024 season and beyond with Kobe and the exciting challenge that lies ahead.”
Wesley Clarke (a defence coach) and Phil Healey (who worked as a strength and conditioning coach with Rennie at the Chiefs and Glasgow) were subsequently appointed as assistant coaches.