Mike Blair to step down as Edinburgh head coach at end of season

Former scrum-half wants to concentrate on becoming a world-class attack coach

Mike Blair has stepped down as Edinburgh head coach. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Mike Blair will step down as Edinburgh head coach at the end of this season. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

MIKE BLAIR will not renew his contract as Edinburgh head coach beyond the end of the current season. The 41-year-old former Scotland scrum-half says he wants to focus on becoming “a world class attack coach”. 

After hanging up his boots in 2016, Blair segued immediately into coaching as an assistant to Gregor Townsend at Glasgow Warriors and then Scotland from 2017 until the summer of 2021, when he was parachuted into the Edinburgh job after Richard Cockerill left the club abruptly.

He led Edinburgh to the URC play-offs and quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup in his first season, but the capital outfit have had a rocky time recently, losing six out of their last seven matches in the United Rugby Championship.


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“My greatest passion is coaching – developing individuals, groups, and the team – to allow them to get the most out of themselves,” said Blair. “As a head coach it is very difficult to do this justice because of everything else that comes with the role. For my next role I want to put my energy and knowledge into being a world class attack coach.

“My time as head coach has been a brilliant experience, working with outstanding players, coaches, and management. It is also an all-consuming job, which I have given everything to since being appointed and I’ve learnt a lot about myself and the game during this period. This will be invaluable going forward as I look to continue my development, whilst not ruling out a return to a Head Coach role in the future.

“Edinburgh Rugby and Scottish Rugby have been incredibly supportive and patient with me while I came to this decision, which I am very grateful for. It has been humbling to lead my home club, so it was an incredibly difficult decision to make.

“I know this decision may come as surprise to some people, but I truly believe focusing on my passion will allow me to get the best out of myself and the players I coach.”

Douglas Struth, Edinburgh Rugby Managing Director, said: “I’d like to thank Mike for his contribution to Edinburgh Rugby. He’s a club legend and has played a big part in creating many memorable moments for the club, with a lot still to play for in the current campaign.

“I’d also like to commend him for what is a proactive, positive, and brave decision, which is in keeping with how he has operated in the past season and a half with the club. During this time we have made notable progress under his leadership – driving standards and our style of play in our new home.”

Mark Dodson, Scottish Rugby, CEO said: “I’d like to extend my thanks to Mike for the superb job he has done at Edinburgh Rugby.

“I know this wasn’t an easy decision for him to not continue as Head Coach but it is one I fully respect and support as the best thing for Mike as a coach and individual.

“He deserves credit for both the progress and achievements the club have made in the past two seasons and for his own personal contribution to that.

“Mike will still be in post for the rest of this season, and I know the team and coaching group still have a lot to play for and will want to end this campaign on a high.

“We are in discussions with Edinburgh and Douglas Struth to find a new Head Coach for the club, who will update the fans further once this is completed.”


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About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

20 Comments

  1. Who can blame him? Who on earth would want to deal with recruitment, retention and all that tedious pish as well as being the team’s main coach? I don’t think there are many professional sides with the set up Edinburgh have.

  2. Hats of to Mike for recognising he was out of his depth as a head coach and that his interest and skill set were more suited for a specialist coaching role. If he wants to develop as a world class attack coach, time to step away from the SRU bubble and gain that experience where there is no comfort zone.

  3. I’m struggling to get the logic of feeling sorry for Blair getting a crack at a bigger salary and career advancement. It’s a shame it didnt work out after a promising start. When the team were in the mood they looked great, but they have hit increasingly long slumps that the coach can’t shake them out of. Very impressive for him to stick his hand up and say being a head coach isnt for him just now. I’m sure he could have kept the job if he’d reached a semifinal.

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  4. A fine man, perhaps pushed into a job too soon and for the wrong reasons. Not that Dodson will care, Im sure he saved a few quid in costs to help his bonus.
    Blair has the right idea, defences are so organised these days that specialist attack coaches are essential to unlock them.Good Luck Mike, Im sure we will see you doing great rugby things soon.

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    • Yet another Scotland Assistant Coach being “promoted” before they’re ready.
      Warriors suffered with Danny Wilson and now Edinburgh with Mike Blair. At least Mr Blair had the decency to resign. Can’t help but think they were both “cheap” appointments, both SRU employees and what option were both coaches given.
      Hate to be the bearer of bad news but John Dalziel,ex Melrose and previously assistant coach at Warriors is Scotland assistant coach….you just never know.

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  5. He’s taken some stick on this site and that includes me but he is nothing but a decent guy and its not always easy to admit your limitations and so its an honest and sensible decision. Regards staying on to the end of the season – its the right call – what’s the point in bailing out right now with a third of the season to go.

    The coach always ultimately takes responsibility but I hope some of the players who performed badly last week and in previous games can up the anti in the remaining games. Whatever the coaches tactics are or his selection, it still largely comes down to the players on the day giving a 100% and making the right decisions and too many have not been doing that. Some need to have a long hard look at themselves and decide if they are really up for it or perhaps they should be moving on with Mike at the end of the season.

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  6. As I posted under an earlier.article, Blair was pushed to take this job. Seems.clear he had doubts it was for him and I think he has been proved correct. Too early and without a senior support coach a la Lancaster for the raw Cullen.
    Others have said he seems a nice guy. He is, no seems about it.And knows his own strengths and weaknesses.And he hasn’t lost the dressing room.

    Scotland attack coach still vacant, hope he fills it.
    For.Edinburgh, Leon McDonald. Good luck

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  7. It’s a shame, he seems a genuine and good bloke, but made it quite clear this job was beyond him a while back. He’ll benefit from getting his internationals back in a few weeks, but it mayt be a bit of a battle until then. I hope he gets sorted in a position more suited to his experience and gets to develop from there.

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  8. Blair said he wasn’t ready to be HC when he was first offered the role but Dodson persuaded him to take the reins when Edinburgh needed him in an emergency. Think this experience will stand him in good stead for the future but he’s a bright guy and knows he doesn’t have the experience or knowledge yet to be a top class head coach. So he’s made a brave decision and I hope we see him making a big contribution to Scottish rugby in another role.

  9. You feel for any guy who gets the push, but really this had to be done. It’s a great shame because he started so brightly and Edinburgh played a much more adventurous game under him than the solid but stultifying stuff served up by the Cockerill regime. The new guy will hopefully be a mix of the two, balancing attack with defence and instilling much greater resilience in the team. He will also want to make some signing to give his squad the depth that Glasgow have achieved and cut some of the dead wood.

  10. He’s a decent guy and has done the honourable thing, I hope I speak for everyone in wishing him well. Edinburgh do have real talent a nice wee ground with finally some atmosphere. For Blair, the step up from one of the lads (player), to supervisor (attack coach), to manager (head coach) is tough for anyone especially in a short period of time. Add to that the fact that the Kinghorn 10 experiment was forced on him making a tough transition so much harder. He’ll come back stronger and wiser. Edinburgh need a cross between Cockerill’s toughness and Blair’s flair – lets hope we find someone.

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    • Agree with all of that. Certainly think he was hamstrung by the BK10 experiment….a more experienced coach would surely have been able to say no to that nonsense.

  11. Feel for him. He’s a decent guy and hopefully his time will come. I liked what Calum McCrae did with 7s and as defence coach plus he knows the players? Or is it too early for him too? Big Dan from Ulster would be interesting but would he be interested?

  12. I feel sorry for him especially as the article points out he was ‘parachuted’ in to a position that perhaps he couldn’t resist taking on. The photograph on the article 18th February after the last defeat if concurrent with the event showed in my opinion he had a realisation then [if not before] that not every opportunity offers the way to success.
    It’s the same in any walk of life sometimes it’s best to be sought after for a singular ability than to fail as the individual with overall responsibilities.
    Good luck to him.

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  13. Blair never really made the most of the talent available. Hopefully some new blood will help. The talent available in Edinburgh should not be wasted. Last result against Scarlets was dire.

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    • A reasonable point in one sense but the expression suggesting it’s not a good idea to swap horses in mid-stream has remained a good guide line for a reason.
      Changing styles and tactics now and any new broom has a ready made excuse for any failure to inject momentum, with a full pre season to get the team performing he hasn’t.

      • I think it is clear he has lost the dressing room. He has more or less admitted as much himself.

        The team will probably be fine for the Leicester game and, hopefully, the QF that follows but I do worry about the intensity we will show in the remaining URC games.

        Not an ideal situation but I would tend to just biting the bullet as early as possible.

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    • I agree. Mike should leave immediately. Staying after declaring never works. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does in fact leave soon.

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