Cotter leaves Montpellier early before starting as Fiji head coach

Vern Cotter (File)
Vern Cotter (File)

Montpellier - New Zealander Vern Cotter is leaving his position as Montpellier's director of rugby three months early before starting his post as Fiji head coach, the French club announced on Wednesday.

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Cotter, 58, will return to his homeland before beginning his contract with the Pacific Islanders in June.

He joined the Top 14 outfit in 2017 and led them to that season's final before losing to Castres.

Former France international Xavier Garbajosa replaced him as head coach at the start of this campaign as Cotter was moved to the director of rugby role.

"There was a lot of joy and pleasure in reaching the final in my first year but the disappointment was as big," Cotter said in a statement on the club's website.

"I would say that there's frustration about not having been French champions because, along with my coaching staff, we came with that ambition."

Former Scotland coach Cotter will take over from fellow Kiwi John McKee whose contract was not renewed after the 'Flying Fijians' were knocked out in the pool stage of the Rugby World Cup after losses to Australia, Wales and surprisingly Uruguay.

With Fijians such as Semi Radradra, Leone Nakarawa and Frank Lomani playing domestic rugby across the world, Cotter said he will work with two different teams.

"One based in the southern hemisphere and one in the north. The main idea is to be able to follow the players closer to where they play," he said.

"The average age of our squad in the World Cup was 28. Those players there won't play in 2023 so it's important to have two teams to look to the future," he added.

Cotter is set to be replaced at the GGL Stadium by former France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre with the side sitting seventh in the league table before hosting champions Toulouse on Sunday.

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