Vern Cotter says he's not chasing Blues role

MARC HINTON
Last updated 09:49 16/07/2012
Vern Cotter
Getty Images
SIDE-STEP: France-based Vern Cotter has confirmed he's not in line to replace Pat Lam as Blues coach.

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The Blues are close to unveiling their new coaching appointment, though France-based Vern Cotter is not among the contenders for the job.

The interview panel spoke to candidates on Friday, with reports indicating it was a three-way race between incumbent Pat Lam, and former All Blacks John Kirwan and Kieran Crowley.

Kirwan, who has previously coached Italy and Japan, has been widely considered the favoured candidate with Lam's horror season thought to make his reappointment a long shot.

But after radio reports today linked Cotter with the Blues job, the highly successful Kiwi coach at Clermont told 3News he was not in contention for the role. He had been spotted in Tauranga late last week in the company of Blues chief executive Andy Dalton, and Cotter confirmed they had met and discussed rugby.

But Cotter said he was not available to step into the Blues job just yet. He indicated he may return to New Zealand in June next year when his current contract with Clermont ends, though he has not ruled out remaining in France at this stage.

Cotter's CV is certainly impressive, and since linking with Clermont in 2006 he has guided the club to become one of the powerhouses of the European game. He has also served time as head coach at Bay of Plenty and an assistant with the Crusaders.

He would be a valuable addition to the New Zealand game if a role can be found for him.

Kirwan's strong links with the Blues power base of Dalton and board chairman Gary Whetton -- they were 1987 World Cup-winning All Black team-mates -- was thought to have given him the inside running for the job, despite less than stellar results in his time in Italy and Japan.

Another theory was the presence of former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry on the interview panel may have worked in Lam's favour.

Henry has long been a strong proponent of the embattled Blues coach and many believe he would have lobbied for Lam to be given some sort of role in the new regime.

Crowley was head coach of Canada at the last World Cup and with no real links to the Blues region was considered a dark horse in the race.

The Blues would not confirm candidates interviewed on Friday, though Lam told media he believed he made a strong presentation before heading off to join his team for their final game of the season in Canberra.

A Blues official today said the announcement of the new coach would come out of the New Zealand Rugby Union which contracts the job and runs the appointment process. They are expected to announce the new coaching setup over the next day or two.

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