By Robin Davey
The Dragons are set to appoint “a world class” coach to replace Bernard Jackman, who was officially removed from his post on Monday.
A new man is due to be announced as soon as the beginning of next week and I understand talks are already well advanced with Jackman’s successor – around 90% done.
The appointment will be temporary – from the outset at least – lasting until the end of the current season after which both sides will review the situation.
Dragons chairman David Buttress, while sad Jackman had to go after a dismal record, says the new head coach will be “world class”.
Lots of names have been bandied about since the official announcement that Irishman Jackman had been dismissed – a vast range, in fact.
Chief among them are the first-appointed Dragons coach Mike Ruddock – the most successful (the only successful) coach they have ever had – Andy Robinson, the former England, Scotland and Bristol chief, Welsh trio Rob Howley, Shaun Edwards and Robin McBryde, Terry Cobner, the former Pontypool, Wales and Lions captain, who enjoyed a brief spell at the top of Welsh rugby, Jim Mallinder, who has guided Northampton to Premiership and European glory, ex-Rodney Parade legends Ian Gough and Gary Teichmann. The list is endless.
Ruddock appears to have distanced himself from the role, saying he would have to think about putting his name forward. That would rule him out given that talks about Jackman’s successor are so well advanced.
Edwards, Howley and McBryde will be fully committed with Wales well into 2019, so they can pretty much be excluded while Gough and Teichmann have limited coaching experience.
That appears to leave Robinson and Mallinder as front-runners, though a southern hemisphere coach who has few commitments for the rest of our season could come in from out of the blue. Either way, we should know the outcome soon enough.
For Buttress, showing Jackman the exit door was one of the toughest decisions of his life, and he’s had to make a few given his success as a global businessman.
The two had shared a mutual understanding and respect from the start with Buttress selling his vision for the future of the Dragons plus the development of Rodney Parade and Jackman fully on board with it.
But a record of just 11 wins in 44 games and a couple of recent hammerings decided Jackman’s fate and Buttress was left with little choice.
A leading WRU source also suggested they couldn’t understand why a Dragons team with players of the calibre of Cory Hill, Ross Moriarty, Elliot Dee, Leon Brown, Ollie Griffiths, Hallam Amos and Tyler Morgan in it, so often failed to be successful.
The chairman insists that the parting of the ways was amicable, saying they had lots of discussions and Jackman was thoroughly professional, in fact, almost helping him in the decision making process.
Buttress, though extremely busy and often jetting around the world on business, remains dedicated to the Dragons’ cause and still found the time yesterday morning to go up to the team’s training base at Ystrad Mynach to inform the players what was happening.
He addressed the whole squad and then conducted a number of one-to-one sessions to reassure them about the future and how his long-term vision remains firmly in place.
He firmly dispels rumours that Jackman had lost the dressing room and confesses he has now completely switched off from social media after a raft of negative, often unpleasant, comments.
As for Jackman, his own future is unclear. But he at least helped start the Rodney Parade revolution by becoming so open with fans, clubs and organisations in the area and beyond.
He engaged with just about anyone, was always welcoming whether that was at Ystrad Mynach or Rodney Parade, and tried as best he could to incorporate the entire region, often holding teach-ins and clinics.
But it is a results-based business, of course, and while there are hugely encouraging signs off the field with revenue, sponsorship and hospitality all increasing, on the field it has been a failure.
Just two Guinness Pro 14 League wins last season and three this, not to mention a ground ban and a controversial dressing down of his players in front of the television cameras, meant that Jackman had to fall on his sword.
And so to the future and the likely announcement of a new “world class” head coach, as soon as next week when another chapter in the troubled Dragons’ history will begin.