By Alan Dymock
GREEK THEATRE is fabled for its two set genres of play, the tragedy and comedy.
In sport, as in life, though, there can be both elements coming together in a beautifully sweet moment during an incredibly sad time. In Scotland the hope could well be that the super serious and the chortle inducing come together in their rugby structure.
Black humour dictates that when times were tough, Scottish fans were prone to laughing at themselves for the sake of not crying. Now times look slightly better and smiles are painted across the north there needs to be an injection of seriousness, drive and rigid adherence to the rules of winning.
Scott Johnson, the grinning Australian who helped Scotland off their knees after some dull losing performances of the past, all the while feeding the press pack some delicious lines as they yapped at his heals, needs a head coach.
After bringing in Ospreys forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys – a man described as a serious sort and harder than a concrete boxing glove – a list of potential head coaches was drawn up.
At first it was assumed that outgoing Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie was favourite for the post, but he quickly established that there were no communications between him and the Scots.
Then it was mooted that Canterbury Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder, a man who had rattled more than a few cages while in Edinburgh with the Gunners, would be the silver disciplinarian for Scotland.
Now it seems that expectation is set at the feet of Clermont Auvergne’s Vern Cotter.
The New Zealander is a man who refuses to play by new age rules, saying the bare minimum to the press before, during and sometimes even after matches. He is focused on his rugby and lets his players do the talking for him. He needs to see them performing and they have done, impressing with a style of rugby that has pundits wantonly spouting superlatives.
He has been seen to smile, though only ever when his team are playing gorgeous tiki-taka rugby, and you can only imaging the grueling work done to get that team to the point where they can swish passes to each other in the most crushing of environments.
If it were Cotter for the Scots it would be a marriage of the odd couple, with the eagerly beaming Johnson overlooking the work of the focused, dead-set Kiwi.
Every team needs balance. What would make this arrangement interesting would be if Johnson gave his coach complete autonomy once the Australian has stated the style he wants, only stepping in to interact and make sure the arrangement is one that works well for all parties involved.
There is much to be discussed yet, with Cotter still hoping to avenge the Heineken Cup final loss to Toulon by winning a Top 14 semi-final against Castres and then triumphing in the final on June 29. By this point Johnson will be South Africa-bound with his last posting as Scotland’s head coach in the quadrangular tournament against the hosts, Italy and Samoa, before climbing a wee stepladder to get to his post of Director of Rugby.
It remains to be seen if Cotter will end up being the man who wants the international posting. If he does he will be the firm, frowning mask to Johnson’s grinning veneer; a good cop, bad cop pairing that can shout and smile Scotland towards playing the way that wins Test matches regularly.
If Clermont’s coach does want the role, Johnson could be crying with happiness.Like Rugby World? Subscribe to the magazine for the latest comprehensive content.