Following thirteen years in charge of the Scottish national team, Steve McCormack stepped down from the role in December after a disappointing RLWC campaign. Two heavy losses to New Zealand and Tonga preceeded a 14-14 draw with Samoa and his departure, while disappointing, was expected.
Ensuring that they appointed who they felt was the right man for the job – or was that men? – Scotland RL have taken the best part of five months to appoint their new head coaches and they have now been revealed to be Wakefield Trinity’s Chris Chester and Featherstone Rovers’ John Duffy, the nation’s first joint-coaches of the national team. Both men have been involved with the Scottish setup before as Chester stepped in as assistant in 2012 with McCormack on compassionate leave and Duffy has both played and coached the national side, the latter role one he only gave up when taking the full-time coaching job with Rovers last year.
Appointing two men with a history with the setup is a good move by Scotland RL’s decision makers but the fact that Chester has a record for introducing young players at Wakefield – plenty of players, including the impressive James Batchelor and Max Jowitt, have been given their debuts since he took the hotseat at Belle Vue – while Duffy encourages expansive rugby league at Featherstone is arguably better. One of the lowest points of the Scottish RLWC campaign last year saw captain Danny Brough, the nation’s most capped player, sent home after being deemed too drunk – along with fellow players Sam Brooks and Jonathan Walker – to board a flight and the new coaches have been informed by Keith Hogg (chairman of Scotland RL) that the three won’t be taking part again in the international setup. “I think the management want to start afresh and try blood some new Scottish talent,” Chester explained.
Given the fact that Chester’s Trinity team train at Featherstone’s ground five times a week, there is already a working relationship between the two which should benefit Scotland. “I’m excited by the challenge. Me and John share the same coaching philosophies and, with Wakefield, we train at Featherstone five days per week so we speak often. It will be a difficult job but an exciting one,” the former Hull KR player added.
The first assignment for the new Scotland coaches will be the European Championships at the end of this season which, as they face Wales, France and Ireland, will also act as a qualification tournament for the 2021 World Cup.