FORMER Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has been shifted upstairs to a director of rugby role for the final year of his contract with Montpellier after a disappointing season which has left the French side languishing in seventh place in the Top 14 table with two rounds of matches left to play.
Montpellier’s outspoken billionaire owner Mohed Altrad has recruited former French international utility-back and current La Rochelle assistant-coach Xavier Garbajosa as the new head coach on a four-year contract.
“”He [Garbajosa] comes to us to be head coach,” Altrad told L’Equipe sport newspaper. “He will only take care of the sports part. Vern Cotter will be the director of rugby according to the mode of Anglo-Saxon clubs or like Philippe Sella in Agen. He will be in charge of marketing, commerce, partnership and communication.”
Under Cotter, Montpellier topped the French regular season standings in 2017-18, but were beaten by Castres in the play-off Grand Final. This season has failed to live up to expectations with the club’s patchy league form matched by a Champions Cup campaign in which they failed to qualify for the knock-out stages having finished second in their pool behind Edinburgh having managed three wins and three losses.
Cotter was recruited from Clermont Auvergne to coach Scotland in 2014 and is generally regarded as having overseen a steady improvement in the team’s performances during his three years in the Murrayfield hot-seat. His spell included a 2015 World Cup campaign in which the national side were one contentious refereeing decision away from beating Australia to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 1991.
The New Zealander was replaced by Gregor Townsend in 2017 and returned to France to coach Montpellier, where it is understood that he became the highest earning coach in world rugby at that time.
Meanwhile, Altrad also stated that South African stand-off Handre Pollard, currently playing Super Rugby with the Bulls, has agreed in principle to join Montpellier as replacement for former All Blacks playmaker Aaron Cruden, but has yet to sign a contract.