Current coaches to handle recruitment as Saints step up search for new long-term boss

Alan Dickens is currently Saints' interim head coach (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Alan Dickens is currently Saints' interim head coach (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Share this article

With Saints’ short-term replacement for Jim Mallinder now in place, Mark Darbon embarks on the most important part of his mission.

The CEO knows he and the rest of the club’s hierarchy must find the perfect long-term successor. Someone to shape life at Franklin’s Gardens for years to come.

“We’re continuing our search for our long-term director of rugby and we’re really excited by the progress we’re making,” said Darbon, who has appointed Australian Alan Gaffney as coaching consultant on a deal that will run until the end of the season.

“We’ve had a lot of applicants, as you’d expect, because it’s a great role and we’re getting to the stage of beginning to form our shortlist.

“We’re looking to make some announcements on that over the next two or three months so we’re well set ahead of next season.

“It’s a mix of inbound enquiries and us being very clear on what we want and who we want to talk to.”

In the meantime, Saints will hope for a typical new boss bounce.

Gaffney started work at Franklin’s Gardens on Monday, spearheading the current coaching staff, which also includes interim head coach Alan Dickens, forwards coach Dorian West, defence coach Phil Dowson and assistant coach Mark Hopley.

And Darbon has outlined what made 71-year-old Gaffney, who has enjoyed success at Munster and Leinster among other clubs, the ideal candidate for his new role.

“We were approached by a lot of people in the aftermath of Jim leaving and we proactively built our own shortlist, too,” Darbon explained.

“We spoke to a lot of the brightest minds out there in the game of rugby, and Alan was consistently highly recommended.

“He’s also known to Alan Dickens (who he worked with at Saracens), which we thought was an important thing given the temporary nature of this appointment.

“We assessed capability and fit, and Alan was right at the top of the list and really happy to come so we’re excited about it.

And he added: “We spoke to people inside and outside the club: players, coaches and some people whose opinion we took in confidence.

“Alan was top of the list so we felt really confident in our choice.

“The things that stood out for us is wealth of experience, he’s won big titles both at club and international level, he’s held director of rugby and head coach roles, and he’s got a really good idea of how to set up an effective and efficient rugby team.

“In the context of us needing some direction for our coaches and our players, we felt he was the ideal candidate.”

As well as focusing on immediate on-field improvement, Saints must also look to the future and decide which players they want to keep and sign for next season.

So who will make those decisions, given the new long-term director of rugby will not be in place for some time?

“There’s a lot going on,” Darbon said.

“We’ve re-signed a lot of players, we’ve got Dan Biggar joining next season and we’re feeling excited by the squad we’re going to have for next season.

“It’s widely known we’ve still got some choices to be made about our squad so I would expect further announcements over the coming weeks.

“We’re working with our existing coaching team and we’ll also take opinions from Alan (Gaffney) as we form those opinions moving forward.”