Sam Broomhall remembers the moment he took the phone call from Vern Cotter.
Broomhall was contracted to French club Clermont-Auvergne when former Crusaders forwards coach Vern Cotter rang in late 2005 to ask a few questions.
The conversation went something like this: ‘‘Sam, I’ve had a call from Clermont and they might be looking for a coach. Is there a job that needs to be done over there?’’
Broomhall, the No 8 who had been recruited to join Clermont in 2005 after 116 matches for the Crusaders and Canterbury, gave it to Cotter straight.
‘‘I told him we were a good side but we just needed a bit more direction,’’ Broomhall, who returned to Canterbury after retiring from professional rugby in 2008, recollected.
Cotter accepted the job. In his first season in charge they bounded from being a mid-table team to making the final of the French domestic competition.
Prior to leaving New Zealand, Cotter had to tell Robbie Deans, then the Crusaders’ head coach, he was heading back to France (he spent around a decade as a No 8 playing for lower-tier clubs) and has remained with Clermont since.
That term will expire when he begins his new job as Scotland national coach in June next year. He has been contracted until after the 2015 World Cup.
Having operated under Cotter in both hemispheres, Broomhall gained enough of an insight to believe Scotland have contracted a highly-competent but direct coach.
When Cotter joined the Crusaders in 2005 he arrived from Bay of Plenty with a reputation for not drawing-out conversations when he could make a point with a few sharp words.
‘‘It’s not that’s he’s not kind,’’ Broomhall added.‘‘If you give to the team, then he will give to you. But if people take short-cuts or not pulling their weight he has standards he expected you to keep and if you are not living-up to them he will let you know.’’
Cotter made minimal changes to the Clermont squad he inherited. He melded them into a side good enough to become beaten finalists in the French domestic competition final and win the European Cup, the second-tier competition to the Heineken Cup.
Clermont was French runner-up for three straight years before claiming the title in 2010. They have been knocked out in the semi-finals each season since.
However, Cotter won’t recall the last 10 days with much fondness; Clermont followed-up their loss to Toulon in the Heineken Cup final to lose 25-9 to underdogs Castres in last weekend’s Top 14 semi.
For several seasons Cotter was assisted by his old Bay of Plenty mate Joe Schmidt before the latter accepted the head coach’s job with Irish club Leinster.
Now, with Schmidt recently appointed Ireland coach, the pair will confront each other during the 2014-15 Six Nations tournament.
Broomhall, who played four tests for the All Blacks in 2002, believed Cotter possessed the ‘‘whole package’’ of skills required to be a successful head coach.
‘‘He was good at motivating the team and individuals, his trainings were well-structured, he managed the week really well and had good strategies.’’
Being in charge of one of the wealthiest clubs in France has also enabled Cotter to recruit well and include former Crusaders Ti’i Paulo and Kevin Senio on his books.
On a personal note, Cotter has thrived financially at the big-spending outfit and his pay-packet far exceeds what a Super Rugby coach can command.
‘‘Whatever he gets he deserves,’’ Broomhall emphasised. ‘‘It is very fickle coaching in France, you could lose three to four games in a row and your head is on the chopping block.’’
- © Fairfax NZ News