ROB CHRYSTIE of Melrose will once again be head coach of the Scotland Club XV this season, with Phil Smith of Heriot’s continuing as an assistant, alongside Fin Gillies of Glasgow Hawks, who is new to the set-up.
The squad will convene for a series of training camps in December and January in preparation for home and away fixtures against their Irish counterparts for the Dalriada Cup in he New Year. Scotland are current holders of the trophy after securing a 58-52 aggregate scoreline over two legs last season (losing 26-23 in the away match last February, before claiming a 35-26 win at Netherdale the following month).
Smith coached the team for three years before Chrystie took over the reins last season. Gillies represented the Club XV in 2010 and 2011 out of Heriot’s and Currie, before signing a pro contract with Glasgow Warriors. After hanging up his boots, the former hooker took over as head coach of Hawkes for the 2016-17 season.
“Fin is a young coach but brings three-year’s head coach experience at Hawks on top of his exposure to the pro game for Glasgow Warriors and Scotland 7s, and is a former Club XV player,” said Chrystie. “He will create a nice balance to what we’re trying to do, alongside the experienced head of Phil [Smith], who’s been around the programme for five or six years.
“The challenging thing with any national programme is the limited time you have with the players, so the key is to be really well organised, so the players have clear pictures of what’s expected of them and what we’re trying to achieve.
“The Club XV has to be a special environment and it has to be a step up from what the players are used to or have had in the past.
“Many have come through the Scotland age-grade programme, so they expect good delivery with clarity, which I believe this coaching team will be able to provide.”
Gillies welcomed the opportunity to work with the team. “It’s something I have an affinity with and really enjoyed as a player, so appreciate it and what it means to those selected,” he said.
“When I played there was experienced, older guys like John Dalziel involved and it was great for me as a young player to come in to that set-up and experience that higher level of rugby. To be involved as a coach at 29 is just as exciting.
“There’s plenty of experience in Rob [Chrystie] and Phil [Smith] so I’m looking forward to learning and trying absorb as much information from them as much as possible, bring my experience to the role and to work with a talented group of players.”