Scotland plans for the forthcoming Six Nations will have to undergo a 33-day overhaul after Matt Taylor’s departure to Australia was confirmed and Welshman Steve Tandy was appointed the new defence coach.
Taylor’s seven-year long tenure with the Scotland management team – he was the longest serving member – ended abruptly with the revelation he was joining Dave Rennie in the new Wallabies coaching set-up but, unlike Rennie who is staying until the end of Glasgow’s season, Taylor is moving with immediate effect.
It was known that Rugby Australia wanted Taylor, who has been Gregor Townsend’s right hand man since they came together at the Glasgow Warriors in 2012.
Taylor was a former Scotland A cap who came back after working with the Queensland Reds in Super Rugby and initially was in a dual role with Glasgow and the national team, working under Andy Robinson, Scott Johnson and Vern Cotter.
When Townsend ascended to be national team head coach in 2017, Taylor joined him at Murrayfield full-time.
But the speed of this change with Taylor returning to Australia immediately surprised many, although Scottish Rugby were quick to announce that Tandy, the former head coach of the Ospreys in the PRO14 and most recently defence coach with the NSW Waratahs in Super Rugby, was taking over defensive detail with the national team.
Tandy, a very different kind of defensive coach to Taylor, seems to be charged with devising a new defensive structure or manipulating the old one in the space of just four weeks.
Scotland’s preparation for the Six Nations – which opens away to Ireland in February 1 – will have new elements this year, but it’s a crucial campaign for the team and for Townsend after a disappointing Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“I would like to thank the players and the staff of both Scotland and Glasgow Warriors for the friendship they have shown to me and my family over the past eight years,” said Taylor in an SRU statement.
“The moments we’ve shared through this period will stay with us for many more to come. The Calcutta Cup win in 2018 with Scotland and winning the PRO12 title in 2015 with Glasgow are ones which will always remain vivid.
“Myself and my family made Scotland our home and have made so many close and lifelong friends. Although the move back to Australia opens a new chapter in our lives, it’s not a case of closing the book here. We will always stay connected to our friends and family and particularly the Scotland national team.
“I’m going to miss Flower of Scotland, the roar of BT Murrayfield, the passion of Scotstoun and – most of all – the celebrations in the changing room after a game with players and staff alike, but the time is right to take on a new challenge.”
Tandy won the PRO12 in his first season with Ospreys and led them to the play-offs twice more during his six seasons there. He had two seasons with the Waratahs before returning to the UK for this job.
“I see this as a massive opportunity and am very excited to fully immerse myself in Scottish rugby,” said the 48-year-old. “Being part of Super Rugby for the past two seasons has enabled me to gain invaluable experience in different styles of rugby.
“Defence is a huge part of the game which I am extremely passionate about. With my experiences from both the northern and southern hemispheres, I feel I can add to the Scotland set up, moving forward. I cannot wait to start working with Gregor, his coaching team and the players.”
Scotland also announced that Pieter de Villiers, the former French international prop, was joining the management team on a short-term contract to be scrum coach. He’s worked with South Africa and laterally at Stade Francais in the Top 14.
Townsend welcomed the appointment of both men: “It’s great to bring someone of Steve Tandy’s experience on board,” he said.
“He was a successful Head Coach in the PRO14 and added another impressive dimension to his coaching as an Assistant Coach in Super Rugby, which is a rare move for a northern hemisphere coach.
“He’s passionate about learning and passionate about improving players. We’re looking forward to welcoming him into the wider coaching group. I know he’s keen to get started with this opportunity.”
“We’re also pleased to welcome Pieter into the group. He’s has top level Test experience, having played for many years at Stade Francais and the French national team.
“He’ll be focused on improving our scrum collectively and working closely on improving the individuals in our team.”