SAM Skinner has joined his fellow-forward Hamish Watson and assistant coach Stevie Lawrie in stating that he hopes Mike Blair will stay as part of Edinburgh’s coaching team – and says the rest of the squad agree with him.
Watson said after last Saturday’s win over the Ospreys that he hoped Blair could remain in some capacity next season despite his decision to step down as head coach at the end of this season. And on Monday Lawrie agreed, saying he had enjoyed working with Blair over the past two years and wanted that partnership to continue.
Scottish Rugby still appear to be searching for a replacement for Blair, but if they do decide that the former scrum-half should remain part of the coaching team at the DAM Health Stadium, they will have Skinner’s full support.
“One hundred percent I would love to have Mike at the club,” he said. “He’s a fantastic coach.
“I don’t know what he wants, but he is enjoying the attack role, I think. And he has a fantastic connection, bond, with the players.
“This is the most I’ve spoken about it. And if I reflect on it, of course I want Mike to stay.”
Asked if the other players agreed with him, Skinner added: “We had a conversation about it the other night – it was the first time we’d spoken about it. We’ve just been cracking on.
“We have the same opinion towards Mike. We think he is a fantastic coach who has created a great environment here, and we owe him a lot and want him to stay.”
Blair announced in late February that he was going to step down at the end of the season after two years at the helm, having decided to concentrate on becoming “a world-class attack coach” instead. That announcement came during a bad run of results for the team which saw former Sale and Worcester boss Steve Diamond brought in as ‘lead rugby consultant’.
Diamond said recently that he would not apply for the head coach vacancy at present, and he may only stay at the DAM Health Stadium until Blair’s replacement arrives. But Skinner believes that the English veteran has already made a good contribution to the squad.
“Steve has been a great addition,” he added. “He’s a straight talker, a good coach. I have no idea if he wants to stay.
“He’s been good. He has more of a consultancy role. We didn’t know as players whether he was coming in as head coach, but consultancy is the title and that is what he is.
“He has added here and there at meetings, and he has looked at training and how we do things, and he drops the odd team talk in here and there. It has freed Mike up a bit to do attacking stuff, which has been good – it’s allowed him more time and energy to put into our attack. You can feel his presence more and the boys have loved that.”
Edinburgh beat the Ospreys in their final home game of the season last week to end a run of five losses on the trot – four in the league and one in the Champions Cup. It has been a poor season for them on the whole, and even if they beat Ulster in Belfast in their final game on Friday night they will still finish in the lower half of the URC table. Nonetheless, they provided a timely reminder in that victory over the Ospreys of just how well they can play on their day – especially in attack – and Skinner is confident that the future is bright.
“There are huge opportunities for this squad and this club. Once we know who is coming in and what’s going to happen, that’s when you can start getting excited again.
“But in terms of the squad, we have a fantastic playing group. It’s about making sure we achieve the targets we’ve set ourselves.”
Skinner has experienced mixed fortunes, at best, in his first season with Edinburgh since joining from Exeter Chiefs. But off the field, at least, he appears to have enjoyed every minute.
“I’ve loved it,” he said. “Life away from rugby and also the rugby side of things have been a real freshen-up for me. I have really enjoyed challenging myself in a new environment and meeting new people and seeing how things are done differently.
“It has been really exciting and it’s an amazing city and an amazing place to life. It has been a fantastic decision for me to come up here and I’ve loved it.
“Although it has been fantastic, the obvious elephant in the room is that we have not been as successful as we all would have liked as a team and that has been challenging. There are no regrets, but disappointed it has not been as successful as it could have been.”