Mike Blair to step away from Glasgow Warriors to focus on Scotland role

Head coach Dave Rennie says door is open for young hooker Robbie Smith to return after earning his spurs at Bedford

Mike Blair
Mike Blair will focus on coaching with Scotland next season. Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson

DAVE RENNIE has indicated that a second coaching vacancy is set to open up at Glasgow Warriors over the summer with Mike Blair stepping away from his club commitments to focus on the national cause as part of Gregor Townsend’s back-room team.

It has already been announced that forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys is departing to take on an assistant role with Wales after the World Cup.

“There’s going to be a little bit of change in our coaching group and we’ll announce it all together,” said Rennie. “That’ll be in the near future, but we’re very advanced.

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“We’re going to have a change because Mike Blair is going to go full-time with Scotland, he’s going to go to the World Cup so that’s a massive commitment. He spends a lot of time in their environment [already], he was away from us for nine weeks during the Six Nations and for five weeks in November, plus this year he’s going to the World Cup, which is going to take up a lot of his time.

“But I’m very happy with the coaching group – they’re an outstanding bunch of men who work hard and are doing a great job. They’re a good team.”

“Mike is an excellent young coach, who has plenty of energy and a really good knowledge of the game. It’s been great having him here but this is great opportunity for him beyond us too. I’ve no doubt he’ll end up in the national scene, but that he may come back to club footy at some stage. His contribution has been really appreciated, so he has a couple of months of focus left yet.”

“A lot of stuff that we’ve got Mike to drive has been stuff that I’ve been doing when Mike’s not here –  like counterattack, turnover and a bit of exit. So, I will no doubt do all that agains, maybe not with the same youth and enthusiasm.”

Recruitment ongoing

On the playing front, while Edinburgh have been pretty proactive in the transfer market in recent weeks, Glasgow have been distinctly low key. They have re-signed a number of leading players, including Tommy Seymour, Adam Hastings, George Horne, Oli Kebble and Huw Jones, and they have added three new names to their roster for next season in Scottish-qualified prospects Kyle Steyn, Andrew Davidson and George Thornton – but concerns persist that the squad may be stagnating, or even regressing, through the loss of Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell last summer while no players of similar stature have come on board.

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“We have done contracting that we haven’t released yet,” insisted Rennie. “I’m not too interested in what Edinburgh are doing, we’ve signed a lot of local boys, we’re bringing in a lot of good young kids who we think, from a future point of view, are going to be massive for Scotland and for us. Then we’re going to use some overseas, or ineligible players for Scotland, to help us get through times like the Six Nations and World Cup and so on. I guess we’ve been working to a plan for a while. We’ve got the nucleus of a really good team and we’re just trying to add a little bit of steel to that.

Asked when any new signings are likely to be announced, Rennie replied: “Not sure. I guess we’ll announce it when the time’s right. For most guys it’s going to be post-season, I would say. Some of them you’ve got guys that are coming out of different competitions, so it’s more than just our needs. We’ll share that with you when the time’s right.”

Bedford switch should be good for Robbie Smith

One young Scottish player whose immediate future is not with Warriors is academy prospects and former Scotland Under-20s prospect Robbie Smith, with English Championship side Bedford Blues announcing his recruitment yesterday – although Rennie indicated that the door is not closed on the possibility of Smith returning to Glasgow at some point in the future.

“We’ve got three Scottish eligible hookers so I think it’ll be good for Robbie to go away and play,” he explained. “We’ve talked a lot about the shifts he needs to make in his game and I think going to that comp will be really good for him. As we’ve announced, we’re dragging back a couple of loose-heads who have left Scotland to ply their trade elsewhere. It’s not a bad thing for some of these young men, so we’re excited for Robbie, I think it’ll be a great option for him.

“If you look at our relationship with London Scottish of late, you see guys can go down there and get a decent volume of footie which means that when came back they’re a little bit more resilient. George Turner is a good example of that, as is Dave Cherry – they are a couple of hookers who have played down at London Scottish and both come back and played really good footie here. So, I think it’ll be good for Robbie in that sense.”

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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1326 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.