MIKE BLAIR has welcomed the arrival of Steve Diamond at Edinburgh, insisting the new “lead rugby consultant” can play his part in restoring the team’s cutting edge.
Diamond, the former director of rugby at Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors, began work at the DAM Health Stadium on Monday. He was parachuted in for the rest of the season after Blair announced he would step down as head coach at the end of the campaign. The pair have contrasting reputations as coaches – Blair is seen as collegiate, Diamond as abrasive – but the former is convinced that they can work together towards a common goal.
“We’ve had a catch-up over the last week or so, then he came in on Monday,” he explained. “From my point of view at least, I think things are working really smoothly. He’s here to help, be another ear, give us observations and use his experience to help me and the other coaches, and our leadership group, to finish the season on a high.”
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Initial reports said that Diamond was to take over as head coach with immediate effect, and Edinburgh sources agreed that was the case. When the appointment was announced, however, the title had become lead rugby consultant, leaving it unclear where Diamond would fit into the coaching structure. Asked how the hierarchy looked now that the new man is on board, Blair suggested it was not an important issue.
“I’ve not seen the hierarchy table. My understanding and Steve’s understanding is that we are working together, using our own individual skill sets to get the best out of the group.
“I know you guys like to put titles on things, but we’ve talked about it really simply. He’s come in to be another eye, be a sounding board, give his observations and opinions to enable us to win games.”
With just three games left in the regular season, the first of which is away to Connacht on Saturday, Edinburgh face an uphill battle to get back into the top half of the table after a run that has seen them win only once in their last seven league outings. But the number of narrow defeats they have suffered has convinced Blair that they are not too far away from getting some wins on the board, and he has taken encouragement from Diamond’s analysis of the team’s play.
“We have talked about us not being far off. We’ve looked at stats that he uses to measure where teams are at, and in those stats we are sitting pretty high – in play-off places or above on most of those stats.
“We’re not far off, we’re doing lots of good things. We have six losing bonus points which could have gone the other way. It’s not broken, we just need to find a ruthless edge – when we get on top of teams, put them away.
“We need to be prepared to work hard for each other from an attitudinal point of view. I believe we’ve had it in periods this season – the Saracens home and away games show we’ve got it in there – but it’s just that consistency and the application of that.
“[Team selection] will be a joint discussion. With Steve coming in just this week, we’ve had conversations about it, but it’s the same as me with the assistant coaches. I don’t just say, ‘This is the team’. We have a conversation then we make a decision. Steve will be another opinion that joins that thinking pot.
“Steve doesn’t have any desire to be an on-field coach. He likes overseeing things and dealing with the off-field stuff, but at the same time he’s been a forwards coach. He’s been an on-field coach so of course we’re going to use that.
“He’s overseeing things, making sure everything is run smoothly. He’s got a lot of experience from different teams. I believe he’s really comfortable with what he’s seen, but that mindset, that attitude and drive side of things is an area he will focus on.”
However well the two men get on over the next two or three months, it is unclear whether either of them will be involved with Edinburgh next season. Diamond has already been linked with a summer move to Bath, but even if that does not materialise, Edinburgh are under no obligation to offer him a new deal. The same is true of Blair, who wants to concentrate after this season on being an attack coach – and knows there is no guarantee that circumstances with his present employer would be conducive to his doing that.
My position is that I’ll wait until a head coach is announced or found,” he explained. “There will be conversations on both sides as to whether it fits for both of us, then we’ll see what happens.”
Edinburgh and Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie is being rested this week, but Darcy Graham could come into contention for a place in the squad to face Connacht. Grant Gilchrist is also available after having his three-match suspension for his sending-off against France reduced to two following the completion of a World Rugby tackle course.
“It’s great to have Darcy back available,” Blair added. “We’ll see how he gets through but he’s been training with us for a couple of weeks. He’s got a bit of energy to him, so we’ll look forward to having him back.
“Grant did it [tackle school] a couple of times. They’re pretty on top of it: you’ve got to do it right, spend the time on it, which is right when you’re taking a game off the ban as a result.
“It’s part of the process that we’ve ticked off. He did it a couple of times because they are stringent about what they want from it. It’s not so much a box-ticking exercise.
“They say, ‘This is what it looks like, this is what you have to do, you did this but you need to do this’. That’s what we’ve done and he’s available for this weekend.”
Looks like he’ll be quietly slotted in as head coach, under whatever guise, over the summer. The first we’ll know is when the sports pages gradually start referring to him as such. Jobs for the boys organisation
When Diamond was first announced I thought it was as Head Coach replacing Blair but now it appears he is a Consultant. Interested to know how that works – is he advising Mike. Sounds like he’s not actually the on field coach so not as we first thought. Mike is still the head coach with Diamond offering advice. A bit odd for me – just sounds like another set of eyes on things but at this late stage no authority to make decisions on selection or tactics. Of more interest perhaps is who’s going to be in the team for this must win game and sounds Like Darcy and Gilchrist will be in.
To be fair any business anywhere would expect someone they employ to make an impact wouldn’t they?