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Mike Blair appointed new head coach of Edinburgh

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by Getty Images)

Scotland Assistant Coach Mike Blair has been confirmed as the new Edinburgh head coach following the departure of Richard Cockerill.

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Cockerill left to pursue “other opportunities” this week, opening the door for Blair’s appointment.

Blair made over 150 appearances for the club between 2001 and 2012 and returns from a five-year term with the national team. The former Edinburgh and Scotland captain was recruited by Head Coach Gregor Townsend to occupy a dual role with Glasgow Warriors in 2017.

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“The first emotion is one of pride,” said Blair. “I’ve lived in Edinburgh most of my life, played 11 seasons at the club and still live in the city, so having that attachment combine with the opportunity to lead the squad is really special for me.

“I’ve learned a lot from working with quality coaches like Dave Rennie, Jason O’Halloran and Gregor Townsend, in particular and over the years, and have been able to develop and adapt a philosophy that I feel should benefit the talent we have at the club.

He joined Glasgow as Assistant Coach in 2016 and operated in that capacity for club and country until 2019 – helping the club reach the PRO14 semi-final and Grand Final (2018 and 2019) and two Champions Cup quarter-finals (2017 and 2019) – before focussing fully on national team matters for the past two years.

“It’s a really exciting squad. There’s a good balance of experience and backgrounds and I’m looking forward to getting to know the players and their strengths better so we can mould that into making Edinburgh both good to watch and successful.

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“It’s also a really good time to come in with all the excitement around the launch of the new stadium this summer. It’s a massive, watershed moment for the club. We all want to get that packed out with supporters from the outset and build an atmosphere the players deserve and the fans can be proud of.”

In this time, he has been credited widely for his role in developing several of Scotland’s pre-eminent attacking talent, while the national side has enjoyed its best return in the professional era, including an away and home double against Australia in 2017, lifting the Calcutta Cup three times (2018, 2019 and 2021), four wins over France and an away-day hoodoo-ending success over Wales, as well as those over France and England earlier this year.

Blair’s contribution was recognised recently with his appointment as Interim Scotland Head Coach, only for the matches to be abandoned as coronavirus affected the camp and that of their opponents. The club said that the “recent departure of Richard Cockerill then presented a timely opportunity for Blair to take the reins of the club he represented over a decade, having been born and bred in the capital city and schooled at Edinburgh Academy.”

He earned 85 caps for his country and toured with the British & Irish Lions in 2009 – the same year Edinburgh Rugby finished as runners-up in the then Magners League – and played a major role in the club’s storied run to the Heineken Cup semi-final in 2012.

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He also played professional club rugby in England for Newcastle Falcons and in France with Brive, all experiences which contribute significantly to his depth of knowledge and understanding of the sport.

Scottish Rugby Chief Executive, Mark Dodson, said: “We’re really pleased to see Mike take this next step on his coaching journey with Edinburgh Rugby, recognising the excellent contribution he’s made at both Glasgow and Scotland over the past six years.

“He’s an exceptional Scottish coach who is hungry to deliver success for a club he cares a great deal about.”

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