Vern Cotter

Vern Cotter on which Blues players will 'bring an edge to the team'

Cotter is one of three incoming Super Rugby Pacific head coaches in the wake of Scott Robertson’s All Blacks overhaul, replacing Leon MacDonald at the Auckland club after leaving Fiji earlier in the year.

While results turned a remarkable corner under his predecessor, Cotter says the squad he’s inherited hold higher expectations.

“It’s a really hard one when you sit back, and I’ve spoken to a number of the players about this as well, there’s an element of disappointment,” The 61-year-old told reporters last Thursday as his squad was announced for the 2024 season.

Cotter named Blues head coach, O'Halloran to assist

Cotter, who starts with the Blues this week, will be joined by new assistant coach, Jason O'Halloran, also on a two-year deal, working alongside members of the existing Blues coaching team.

Cotter is an experienced Head Coach at both domestic and international level and was most recently head coach of Fiji from 2020-22.

He was also Head Coach of Scotland from 2014-2017 - where he joined forces with O'Halloran - the pair taking the team from tenth to fifth in the World Rugby Rankings and credited with having a strong impact on the culture and performance of the team.

Vern Cotter in mix to coach Leicester Tigers

Cotter last week mysteriously resigned from the Fiji national coaching position just seven months out from the World Cup in France.

But the reasons behind that sudden departure may be more clear as his name is linked to the Tigers’ position where the previous coach Steve Borthwick left with defence coach Kevin Sinfield to head a new-look England management following the sacking of Eddie Jones.

Now key figures in the interim coaching set-up at Leicester are set to follow with Richard Wigglesworth and Aled Walters joining Borthwick at Twickenham HQ.

'I'm disappointed': Fiji coach Vern Cotter delivers World Cup blow

Fiji Rugby chairman Humphrey Tawake told a hastily arranged news conference in Suva on Thursday that Cotter’s letter of resignation had been accepted and a new coach will be appointed “in due course.”

Tawake said Cotter had resigned for personal reasons but gave no other details.

In a statement, Cotter expressed regret for his sudden departure.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the players and coaches I have worked with during my time with the team,” he said.

Vern Cotter stands down as Fiji coach

The 61-year-old New Zealander, appointed in January 2020, has left for personal reasons.

"I'm disappointed to be leaving at this time," said Cotter, who led Scotland to the World Cup quarter-finals in 2015.

"The team has made some significant improvements over the last few years both on and off the field."

Cotter is the fourth international head coach to leave his role in the past two months, following the departures of Wayne Pivac (Wales), Eddie Jones (England) and Dave Rennie (Australia).

The Fiji reaction to losing assistant Jason Ryan to the All Blacks

The assistant has been working with the Pacific Islanders since 2020 and had been signed until the 2023 Rugby World Cup finals in France. 

However, he will now be at that tournament as an All Blacks assistant after he was recruited last weekend by New Zealand Rugby when they opted to bring in Ryan to assist Ian Foster and jettison John Plumtree and Brad Mooar. 

Cotter's message to Fiji after big win over new look Tonga

Cotter expects a reaction from an Australia side that lost 31-26 to Samoa who now take on Tonga who lost star full back Israel Folau to injury in their disappointing loss to the hosts of the Pacific Nations Cup competition.

Securing the Cup is key for Cotter as he prepares for the November tests in the Northern Hemisphere and next year’s Rugby World Cup in France and he is expected to boost his line up against the Australians by recalling key players who were rested for the Tonga clash.

The Tier 1 side Fiji should have beat and the England star Cotter may want

Cotter and the rest of the Fijian coaching group were unable to travel to Europe due to the pandemic for the win over Spain 43-13 , the 38-23 loss to Wales and 15-15 draw with Georgia with Gareth Baber, the former sevens gold medal winning coach taking charge of a European based squad for the matches.

According to Cotter the main challenge heading into 2022 – a year before the Rugby World Cup in France- is to “ develop new habits that will give us more opportunities to be competitive at the top level.”

Test review: coach unhappy with Flying Fijians' results

With the completion of the tour, Cotter said they could have done much better.

The Flying Fijians won their first game 43-13 against Spain, lost to Wales 23-38, and were held 15-all by Georgia.

Cotter said the key theme coming out of the Wales match was discipline.

Winger Eroni Sau was suspended for five weeks following his red card for a dangerous tackle in the game, but Fiji also picked up two yellow cards in Cardiff.

Cotter says the squad has to get its attitude and mindset sorted out, and follow a good game with another top-notch performance.

Vern Cotter working closely with interim Fiji coaches for Northern tour

Covid-19 travel restrictions have prevented Fiji's New Zealand-based coaching staff from travelling to Europe, with outgoing Fiji sevens coach Gareth Baber to lead an interim coaching panel next month.

Cotter said it was a unique situation but they have managed to assemble a team to work with the squad on the ground.

"I got in touch with Duncan Hodge, who was my assistant in Scotland from years ago, Cotter explained.